Distillery that gave away hand sanitizer with purchases now faces investigation

Updated: Apr. 21, 2020 at 10:16 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui company’s good deed has led to a county investigation.

Maui Brewing Company has been making hand sanitizer to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was a known need. There were already shortages happening and we are in a unique position to be able to actually make the sanitizers,” said co-founder and CEO Garrett Marrero.

Marrero says being a licensed distillery, he felt an obligation to his community to help with the high demand of sanitizer during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We had about 300 gallons out the gate and within a couple of days, that was gone, and we realized that we were going to need to make more,” he said.

He says he bought ingredients for 3,000 more gallons and offered bottles for free with any purchase to help his business stay afloat.

He said about 1,000 gallons were donated to nonprofits, essential workers and first responders.

So he was surprised when he got a phone call from an investigator with the Maui Liquor Control Department on Sunday night.

“He let me know that we were being investigated for a violation in which we were supposedly giving free hand sanitizer out to anyone with purchase and that it was an inducement to buy alcohol,” Marrero said.

The rule states, “It shall be unlawful ... to give any free goods of intoxicating liquor or other merchandise in connection with the sale of any intoxicating liquor.”

Marrero says he was just trying to help his community.

“This is just some bureaucratic BS frankly, and this is not where my attention needs to be paid. My attention needs to be to go right back out there and help everyone as we have been doing.”

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino says despite the pandemic, rules have to be followed.

“Garrett has done a great job helping us and I’m truly appreciative of everything he’s done," he said.

“But there are laws that still exist and has to be abided by because you’re speeding during COVID-19 doesn’t mean you weren’t speeding.”

Marrero says in the middle of a pandemic and an economy in ruins, authorities should have bigger things to worry about than a company giving away hand sanitizer.

"If we had done anything wrong, I would have appreciated a phone call and a discussion,” he said.

“I think we live in a different world than we did a month ago and this is not where government needs to spend its time."

Hawaii News Now tried to get a hold of the Liquor Control Department for comment on the investigation, but phone calls and emails went unanswered.

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