Hawaiian Brewery Under Investigation for Hand Sanitizer Giveaway

Absurd enforcement of liquor regulations harms public health efforts.


A brewing company in Hawaii is being investigated by a liquor board for giving away hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 outbreak with alcohol purchases.

With the temporary death of the bar scene across the country due to stay-at-home orders, brewers and distillers large and small have adjusted on the fly and have started converting to the production of sanitizer instead of beer or liquor, for now.

Maui Brewing Co. in Hawaii began manufacturing hand sanitizer late in March after shutting down its restaurants and brewery to anything but takeout sales. They've been giving away hand sanitizer with purchases at their Kihei location, and they've also donated more than 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to local first responders.

According to media outlets in Hawaii, the company is now in trouble with the Maui County Department of Liquor Control and its overseeing Liquor Control Commission. Maui's extensive liquor regulations forbid anybody with a liquor license from giving "any free goods of intoxicating liquor or other merchandise in the connection with the sale of any intoxicating liquor; or to provide any premium or free goods of intoxicating liquor in connection with the sale of other merchandise."

In other words: It's against the law in Maui to give away hand sanitizer to people who buy liquor from you. And it's also against the law to give liquor away to people who buy hand sanitizer from you.

To be clear here, there's no evidence that Maui Brewing Co. is using hand sanitizer as a way to sell more beer. They have not packaged it for resale. When customers come to their location in Kihei, they can bring their own container and receive free hand sanitizer.

(Mind you, even if Maui Brewing Co. were using hand sanitizer to try to drum up beer sales, there shouldn't be anything wrong with that either. Pandemic aside, this regulation is nanny state nonsense attempting to limit promotional tools targeting drinkers.)

The Maui Department of Liquor Control hasn't responded to requests for comment. The brewery's CEO, Garrett Marrero, complained to the Associated Press last week that there was nothing wrong with helping the community by providing free hand sanitizer with purchases: "We were doing the right thing. That's what is really disheartening."

Marrero tells Reason he hadn't heard anything more from the Maui Liquor Control Commission beyond a phone call telling him of the investigation. He says community response to the news has favored his business.

"It's awesome to see the support locally and nationally for us under this ridiculous accusation," Marrero says. He says the investigators were drawing the wrong conclusion. "We never said 'Free sanitizer with alcohol purchase.' It was the guests' choice what they wanted to buy. 'Inducement' is about getting them to buy alcohol that they wouldn't otherwise have purchased but did so to get the free item."

Maui Brewing Co.'s website now shows they're charging $3 for 16 ounces of hand sanitizer. Marrero explains that it's not cheap to produce, so he's no longer giving it away with purchases. But he says that he's still donating hand sanitizer to local first responders and some nonprofits. During the promotion, he says Maui Brewing Co. was giving away about 20 gallons of hand sanitizer per day.

This shift may also alleviate the Department of Liquor Control's concerns. So, to be perfectly clear, in order to (partially) avoid being accused of trying to profit off of demand for hand sanitizer by attaching it to alcohol sales, Maui Brewing Co. has started charging money for the hand sanitizer they had been giving away for free. What a stupid outcome.

Bonus link: How Food and Drug Administration regulations have made it harder for distilleries to assist in the production of additional hand sanitizer.

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  1. “So, to be perfectly clear, in order to avoid being accused of trying to profit off of demand for hand sanitizer by attaching it to alcohol sales, Maui Brewing Co. has to charge money for the hand sanitizer they had been giving away for free. What a stupid outcome.”

    Hi. We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.

    (Why wasn’t this the brickbat?)

    1. [ Work At Home For USA ] ★Hannah G. Huddson paycheck was for 1500 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour…… More Details

  2. With so many businesses shut down, the bureaucrats are scrambling to find work just the same as everybody else. Why are you slamming the enterprising government workers finding creative ways to generate revenue-producing activity during these trying times instead of applauding their initiative? I suppose you’d prefer that they just sit at home and do nothing instead.

    1. I’d prefer they take a long walk off a short pier, but just staying home would be better than statues quo.

      1. In Hawaii there are also several volcanoes to jump into.

        1. Great idea!

          1. Those volcanoes are reserved for virgins only, and who knows how many people these officials have screwed.

        2. only two active at the moment, both on big island

    2. I suppose you’d prefer that they just sit at home and do nothing instead.

      Personally, I’d prefer it if they chug a gallon of bleach (I hear it works wonders for the COVID) and then stick a shotgun in their mouth and pull the trigger with their toes to help them kick that nasty Oxygen habit once and for all.

  3. Liquor boards and even more useless then most government departments. Here in Ohio, the means of the laws and what you need to do to stay in their good graces changes depending on who the liquor agent is that day.

  4. and here I was thinking the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was bad

  5. We got some hand sanitizer for free with the purchase of a bottle of gin from One Eight Distilling in DC. I’m not a big gin person, but theirs is excellent when ice cold and mixed with one of those fancy artisanal tonics. But the hand sanitizer smells like rocket fuel. I think they just took their first raw distillate and mixed it with some glycerin and called it a day. Oh well. It’s what I use when I come out of a store. Anyway, DC seems to be a little more liberal than a lot of other places when it comes to what you can do with alcohol and food. It’s not total freedom or anything, but better than Virginia and Maryland.

    1. Excuse my ignorance but why would you expect them to use the good stuff to make hand sanitizer? Taking their first raw distillate and mixing it with some glycerin sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If you want the foo-foo smelly stuff, wait in line at the grocery store for a shipment from the guys who are actually set up to add perfumes to their product.

  6. in order to (partially) avoid being accused of trying to profit off of demand for hand sanitizer by attaching it to alcohol sales, Maui Brewing Co. has started charging money for the hand sanitizer they had been giving away for free. What a stupid outcome.

    It could be worse. The government could force MBC to label their sanitizer with the FDA disclaimer.

  7. Perhaps the DLC is just concerned that the commoners will confuse the products, rub beer on their hands, and drink the sanitizer.

  8. Further proof that there’s no situation the government can’t make worse.

  9. Charge 1 cent. Donate revenue to some anti-government organization (if you can find one in Hawaii). It isn’t called “Blue Hawaii” for nothing.

  10. It is a bit gimicky for micro-distilleries to be making hand sanitizer.

    The US corn ethanol industry makes over 14 billion gallons of high grade, denatured and ready for blending into hand sanitizer ethanol a year. The industry has seen a glut of production, so has been looking for increasing the required concentration in motor fuels. And now motor fuel consumption is way down, so in the past month more than a billion gallons of ethanol production has gone wanting. Bit of a mystery why this industry has not seen fit to dump a glut of ethanol onto the market this way.

  11. This is why so many people don’t like the government. Most of us would prefer to see them as part of us, as a friend and Ally. But then they insist on behaving like this
    The mayor says he been very helpful and generous. But rules are rules and we kinda want to put him in prison and take his money and make sure he loses his business. Because that just seems like a fantastic thing to do to one of our citizens. Maui will be much safer if we do that because we are smarter than everyone else.

  12. Hawaii in general has lost its mind over the coronavirus issue. I have heard suggestions about suspending tourism for 18-24 months, draconian quarantine measures that would also out people renting out thier own property. It as if Hawaii is not familiar with freedom of action or expression at all and would be more comfortable being an authoritarian dictatorship.

    1. I live in Hawaii, and can guarantee that Hawaii is quite familiar with the concept of freedom, and utterly despises it.

      I’ve never understood why the people of Hawaii voted for statehood: communist China and the USSR already existed in 1959, and either would have been better ideological mates for Hawaii.

  13. Walter Peck is alive and well, and living in Hawaii.

    1. No. This is Walt Pecker.

  14. The answer is in the names of the governing agencies:

    Maui County Department of Liquor **Control**
    and its overseeing
    Liquor **Control** Commission

  15. No deed goes unpunished. They provide a much-needed product and then some sorry government bureaucrat has to threaten it! I wish for once the public at large would start personally confronting these hateful jerks. If they knew they had to face people who weren’t afraid of speaking their mind to them eye-to-eye they might not be so quick to do these low-down and sorry things. How ridiculous is this going to have to get before people start standing up and fighting back with determination? How much liberty are we going to have to lose before folks finally stand up and not back down an inch?

  16. In a situation like this, it’s morally incumbent upon the jury to kick the shit out of the prosecutor, his entire chain of command, and anyone else involved in persecuting the civic-minded defendant. They should be pummeled into a coma.


    1. Sorry, but you don’t understand Hawaii: we get jerks like these because the VAST majority of voters WANT jerks like these. At every level of government, always and forever.

      This is a compulsively control freak culture, and quite comfortable with legislators and bureaucrats of sub-median intelligence and honesty. This isn’t going to change any time soon: it’s in the culture.

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