Despite two appeals to the Maui Planning Commission challenging administratively granted permits, Rock & Brews restaurant developers announced this week that KISS hard rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley plan to open the Paia restaurant in January.
A two-day opening celebration is scheduled for Jan. 25 and 26, with a "special KISS Rock & Roll VIP package" available at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, the announcement said.
The developers' announcement this week bewildered those challenging the project's two administrative minor special management area permits.
"We're greatly perplexed," said Irene Bowie, executive director of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation.
Her community planning advocacy group and a number of Paia residents are contesting the development's permits, contending among other things that the project was undervalued at less than $500,000 to avoid a public review before the planning panel. (A construction valuation of $500,000 or more would have triggered a requirement for a major special management area permit, which requires approval of the planning commission.)
Earlier this week, the appellants learned that their appeal of the project's minor SMA permits would be taken up as a pre-hearing item on the commission's Dec. 10 agenda, Bowie said.
The pre-hearing discussion will focus on consolidating the two appeals, selecting a date to hear the merits of the appeals and appointing a mediator and hearings officer, she said.
The appellants filed their first appeal in July, and "in the meantime, the restaurant has been allowed to continue under construction," she said. "This is not a good way for the planning process to work."
The project should have been reviewed by the planning commission, with members of the public given the opportunity to share their concerns and suggest mitigations, she said.
"We're looking forward to having a chance to discuss community concerns and (possible) mitigation," she said. "That's how the process is supposed to work . . . The process creates a better project. Public testimony creates a better project."
Now, with the restaurant two months away from opening its doors, the community and the developers are left with uncertainty, perhaps with mitigation measures required after construction, Bowie said.
It comes as no surprise that the county moves slowly, but in addressing the appellants' concerns "this was excessively slow," she said. "It would be a shame if people tried to shortcut the laws that we have and the processes that we have . . . That doesn't serve anyone well."
A spokeswoman for the Rock & Brews project requested questions submitted in writing and had no immediate comment Tuesday.
The developers' announcement of the restaurant's opening sought to focus on its Maui ties, family-oriented appeal and rock 'n' roll theme.
Rock & Brews Paia was designed by architect Jim Niess of Maui Architectural Group, along with teacher, spiritual leader and artist Al Lagunero of Maui, serving as a consultant on Hawaiian culture and art, according to the announcement.
"The ohana restaurant will pay tribute to the familial warmth and character that is synonymous with Paia, while respecting the vibrant Rock & Brews brand look and feel," it says. The restaurant "will feature Rock & Brews' popular casual American comfort food, as well as local favorites, and a full bar, including Paia's largest selection of craft beers."
"It is our goal to always offer local favorites on our menus," Stanley said in the announcement. "In Paia, we will offer a number of popular Hawaiian dishes, local craft beers and signature tropical cocktails."
"Shannon and I just renewed our wedding vows on Maui, and we are very excited and privileged to bring our family-friendly restaurant to Paia," Simmons said. "Maui has long been a favorite vacation spot for both my family and Paul's family, and this opening is particularly exciting for us."
Restaurant guests will enjoy indoor or outdoor dining "in a family-friendly rock-concertlike environment, complete with concert lighting, multiple screens presenting concert videos, hand-painted murals of rock artists, album and tour art, as well as art by local artists and art that salutes Hawaiian history and culture," the announcement says. "The restaurant is designed to welcome local families and visitors alike."
Simmons and Stanley are the "co-founding partners in Rock & Brews family-friendly, rock-themed restaurants." Other partners are restaurant-hotelier Michael Zislis, concert and merchandising veterans Dave and Dell Furano, and Maui residents Mark and Chrystie Blietz, who will own and operate the restaurant at 120 Hana Highway.
Simmons and Stanley are set in January to host events benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project that aids severely injured servicemen and women and the Pa'ia Youth & Cultural Center.
The three-night stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, part of the VIP package, begins Jan. 24 and costs $349 per night, plus tax and resort fees. The package for guests attending the restaurant opening includes a one-bedroom suite, access to the Willow Stream Spa VIP grand opening party (with meet-and-greet and photo opportunities with Simmons and Stanley), as well as a black-and-white manicure station, a rock 'n' roll red lipstick station, hot rock neck massages and rock 'n' roll sushi rolls.
For more information or reservations, visit www.fairmont.com/kea/kiss-rock-roll/.
Rock & Brews has restaurants at the Los Angeles International Airport, and in El Segundo and Redondo Beach, Calif., and Los Cabos, Mexico.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.