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Firm gets warning for hand santizer brouhaha

Maui Brewing Co. issued administrative notice of caution from Liquor Department

The county Liquor Control Department on Tuesday handed Maui Brewing Co. a “notice of warning” after investigating the company’s made-in-house hand sanitizer and giveaway promotions.

In a statement released Thursday night, the department said that its investigation last month “revealed that Maui Brewing failed to comply with state law by advertising free hand sanitizer in connection with the sale of liquor” and issued an administrative notice of written caution.

“It is short of subjecting Maui Brewing to an adjudicatory hearing,” according to the department.

However, Maui Brewing CEO Garrett Marrero remained confident that the company did not violate rules. The company, which also gave away the hand sanitizer produced at its facility to first responders and others in the community, received strong community support during the investigation, while the department faced public rebuke.

Maui Brewing, which sells food, alcoholic beverages, coffee, soda and merchandise, had offered the 16-ounce hand sanitizer for free with the purchase of any to-go item — not just alcohol — after both Kihei and Lahaina restaurants closed March 19 due to the COVID-19 emergency orders.

Using liquid from whiskey and gin distillation, the company followed government guidelines for ingredients proofed to 70 percent ethyl alcohol and not for human consumption.

The company first advertised its giveaway promotion March 25, which was flagged by the liquor department and led to an investigation, Marrero told The Maui News on Wednesday.

He received the written warning from the department Tuesday and hopes that the letter means that both parties have come to a resolution.

“It seems like they’re not going to pursue the investigation, where they found that we did violate the law, but that they are going to give us a warning instead,” Marrero said. “It seems like that’s a resolution at least, so that we can move forward.”

During the promotion, Maui Brewing was giving away about 20 gallons of hand sanitizer per day to help first responders and those in need, he said. He stopped giveaways after the liquor department began its investigation.

Instead, starting the week of April 22, he started charging a fee for the Kupu Spirits Hand Sanitizer, which according to the company’s website costs $5 for a prepackaged 16-ounce bottle or $35 for a 1-gallon jug.

“If anything, Liquor (department) turned a donated item into a profit item,” he said. “People were upset that Liquor was overreaching in this sense.”

To-go pickups are available from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Kihei location only. The takeout menu changes daily, and customers are encouraged to follow Maui Brewing on Instagram or Facebook for updates.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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