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Many of us “mainlanders” have attempted to open small businesses on the Island of Maui only to pack our marbles and return home, demoralized and relieved of a lot of money through the unfriendly business climate and miles of red tape steeped in tradition here. Enough to make an episode of “survivor” look like a cakewalk.

When my business partner decided to give up the kitchen we were both working in I had the bright idea to get a kitchen of my own. I found a wonderful space that had previously been a kitchen with all the plumbing installed, central air and lots of electrical outlets for our equipment. I signed a lease.

Then I was told that the previous kitchen was operating illegally and no permits were secured for the plumbing or the electrical and I would also need to apply for a certificate of occupancy.

$180, 8 inspections; seemed like no problem for 2 established businesses sharing a space. I was wrong.

Electrical was first, telling me that as long as I secured a permit for the water heater and the 220v plug, all would be fine. Somewhere between my shop and her office it changed. The building owner had to pull a permit for each and every electrical outlet in the space. Then plumbing told me that the pipe leading from the sink to the drain was “illegal” only to have an epiphany after the requested changes were done. After stating that he made a “boo boo” I paid a plumber $400 to spend half an hour putting a new section of pipe in and signing a piece of paper stating he had done so.

I had to draw a diagram for the planning department of the space and it’s intended use, Engineering decided I was not worth his time and signed off the first day, the fire inspector was very nice and quite a hunk of eye candy, and the building inspector took pity on me when I started crying.

And then there was waste water and health. Waste water couldn’t make up their minds if I needed the grease interceptor we installed then had a lapse of memory as to who actually told us to disconnect it. The health inspector who my partner and I both feel comfortable with was called away on a family emergency after inspecting and collecting $200. She took care of everything on her end but when I called to ask why the approval hadn’t been recorded yet I was told by someone in the office “oh, I haven’t seen that paperwork.” When I asked twice if she would like me to give her my application number so she could look it up, she said, “no, that’s ok.”

My certificate was finished yesterday. The county said they would call me when it was ready for pick up only for me to realize that they had transposed my phone number. When she finally got in touch with me, it was after lunch so I would be sitting in very heavy downtown Wailuku traffic. When I arrived there were three clerks sitting at their desks. I walked in and was told to sit outside and wait until someone called me in. I sat down. I crossed my legs. As they all watched me settle in to wait, one of them waved me in. She went to the file, pulled out my certificate and made me write a $50 check before she would hand it to me.

I can laugh about it now but it was a very trying experience. And, I’m not the worst scenario. I’ve heard the horror stories of people being spun around by the county for months only to eventually give up. And another tenant in my building had to plant trees in the parking lot before he got his certificate.

So here it is!!!!

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