Oktoberfest without beer? Utah festivals face renewed scrutiny for a liquor permit

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s liquor control commission is putting festivals and fundraisers under renewed scrutiny for a beer or wine permit.

The decision has put Snowbird’s popular Oktoberfest in jeopardy.

It used to be that obtaining one of these permits was considered fairly easy. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has begun reexamining how it hands out what are known as “single event permits.”

“We just felt that maybe we were allowing something the legislature had not intended,” DABC Commission Chairman David Gladwell told FOX 13 on Tuesday. “We felt like previous commissions had maybe drifted a little bit from the rules we had imposed on ourselves.”

As a result, the DABC is putting the events under more scrutiny.

“We’re reexamining our policies in all respects,” Gladwell said. “It’s a healthy thing. It’s a good thing.”

The DABC’s renewed scrutiny could affect every festival and fundraiser in Utah that wants to serve beer or wine. The DABC commission said for-profit groups may have a tougher time getting a permit, to ensure the event is truly a community gathering and not just something to make money for them.

(Events like the upcoming Utah State Fair, Utah Pride Festival and Utah Arts Festival have already been approved, DABC officials told FOX 13.)

The change in policy surprised the Snowbird ski resort, which is gearing up for its sixth annual Brewfest in a couple of weeks.  Representatives of the resort appeared before the DABC commission on Tuesday to appeal for a single event permit for Brewfest and raised concerns that the rule change could doom its very popular Oktoberfest, held every year.

“I really think our community will miss it if we didn’t have it,” Snowbird General Manager Bob Bonar told FOX 13.

Commissioners debated the intent of the rule, which has already been challenged by several businesses who host events. In recent months, as many as 10 events have been denied single event permits.

See a list of single event and temporary beer permit applications here:

In a 4-1 vote, Snowbird was granted a single event permit for Brewfest. It remains to be seen if the resort will get one for Oktoberfest. Bonar told FOX 13 that losing Oktoberfest “would hurt a lot.”

“I would like to say Oktoberfest is the second-best thing we do in Little Cottonwood Canyon after powder skiing,” he said. “So losing Oktoberfest is a really big event.”

Gladwell said the DABC may seek further guidance from the Utah State Legislature on how it interprets the rule.

“It’s a work in progress for the commission,” he said. “We are not of one mind right now.”

9 comments

  • Charles Irvine

    “We’re reexamining our policies in all respects,” Gladwell said. “It’s a healthy thing. It’s a good thing.”
    What they’re trying real hard “Not” to say is “is a religious matter and we feel like those before us have lost track of that.”
    Welcome to Utah… The state that wants to limit alcohol in the name of Joseph Smith.
    The liquor rules in this state are ridiculous. When will someone stat up, in the State Legislature, and bring this state around to something more realistic and respecting of an Adult’s Right to Choose? I’m not holding my breath…

  • Steve Leonard

    If they were to deny the Oktober Fest permit then our elected leaders are dumber than I thought.

  • Shayne

    Hey UTAH! Let Adults be Adults, And as Usual you let the church dictate state laws and regs. Not all of us are Mormon Or Drunks, and we like to enjoy our lives without you starting BS controversy over every event that serves alcohol! Your pathetic!

  • Jackie Colton

    Remember everyone, you can’t fix stupid, but we can vote stupid out! Just another reminder!

  • J Jones

    This is embarrassing, I try hard to not judge other beliefs or cultures like Mormons but when issues like this come up and we have religion dictating policy its extremely hard not to become bitter. I doubt this will get denied but it’s just a reminder that its okay for Mormons to ram their beliefs and culture down our throat but if you express an alternate belief or culture, get ready to for them to judge you and your family and change the rules. I will say that I have plenty of Mormon friends that are not this self-righteous but there are plenty that are and they seem to hold powerful positions.

  • Mark Snuff

    Watered down beer, zion curtains, state controled liquer stores, and now it’s even harder to get permits for beer… at Octoberfest, a 40-year old festival of beer? Utah, what a joke.

  • julie

    The joke is Utah the Mormons were one of the first states to lift prohibition..Why cause thy were making and selling all the alcohol.this side of the western states . They had and might still own stocks in many distillery {Budweiser}.Don’t kid your selves this is not about religion this is about Money ..Mormon Money .. and who is going to get it.

  • julie

    The joke is Utah the Mormons were one of the first states to lift prohibition..Why cause thy were making and selling all the alcohol.this side of the western states . They had and might still own stocks in many distillery {Budweiser}.Don’t kid your selves this is not about religion this is about Money ..Mormon Money .. and who is going to get it.

  • Finny Wiggen

    I can tell you that our LDS family of nine would very much miss Oktoberfest. No beer would kill the festival, and would subsequently doom an event that our family enjoys. We don’t drink, but we also don’t mind others drinking. Just as our Jewish friends do not mind when we eat pork in front of them…

    Hoping this commission exercises common sense, and issues the permits.

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