There will be beer at Snowbird’s Oktoberfest after all. Commissioners with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control approved a single-event permit for the festival Tuesday, but the discussion around Utah’s liquor laws is not over.
It all started last month when members of the state liquor commission began re-examining guidelines for single-event permits. The rules state that the permits should be used for community gatherings that have some civic value, not for businesses just trying to make a profit. But by the time the Commission met, DABC Chairman David Gladwell says the decision on Snowbird’s permit application was clear.
“When we reviewed the application with supporting letters from community partners, it was very clear that this is the very kind of community event that the commission should be approving,” Gladwell says. “There was really no question about that.”
While the commission’s vote was unanimous, the discussion is not over. DABC Commissioner Jeff Wright says the statute passed by state lawmakers is not clear, leaving room for interpretation.
“They wrote a very vague law,” Wright says. “They’re giving us some discretion, and we have to use that discretion appropriately.”
The whole discussion has received attention from media around the world, causing some state lawmakers to question whether it’s damaging Utah’s reputation as a tourism destination. But David Morris, bar owner and President of the Utah Hospitality Association welcomes the attention.
“I think it’s great,” Morris says. “I think it focuses attention that there is a problem with statute. The DABC is just following statute, and the statute is messed up. So people need to get more involved in the lawmaking process and fix it.”
Commissioners say they are beginning the process of rewriting the rules to clarify what types of events might qualify for these permits.