HONOLULU — A liquor control commission has launched an investigation of a Hawaii brewery for giving away hand sanitizer with purchases of its beer.
Maui Brewing Co. is under investigation by the Maui County Liquor Control Commission for distributing the sanitizer during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The state Department of Liquor Control prohibits distributing goods in connection with alcohol sales.
“It’s considered an inducement giving away something to entice people to buy alcohol. We were giving away sanitizer with any purchase,” Maui Brewing CEO Garrett Marrero said.
“Of course we’re trying to encourage some business, but is it wrong? I’m hearing stories that people are paying $10, $20 for an 8-ounce bottle,” Marrero said. “We were doing the right thing. That’s what is really disheartening.”
The company used its Kupu Spirits distillery to produce more than 3,000 gallons (11,356 liters) of sanitizer that is 70% ethyl alcohol, which is in extremely short supply.
The investigation “is in extremely poor taste given the situation surrounding the coronavirus” because the licensed brewery and distillery can help the community by making hand sanitizer with ingredients in its facility, Marrero said.
“It was a known need,” Marrero said. “There were already shortages happening and we are in a unique position to be able to actually make the sanitizers.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The company also donated more than 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to first responders and others since the start of the pandemic.
Maui Brewing ended donations of sanitizer to county and state departments, but plans to continue supporting some local charities.
Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said that despite the pandemic, rules must be followed.
“Garrett has done a great job helping us and I’m truly appreciative of everything he’s done,” Victorino said.
Department of Liquor Control Acting Director Georgette Tyau did not immediately return a call seeking comment.