DABC explores changes to rule after ‘Oktoberfest without beer’ fiasco

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's liquor control authority is putting the finishing touches on a proposed rule that will deal with how they award alcohol permits to festivals and other events.

The changes are in response to a controversy last year over Snowbird's popular Oktoberfest, when Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission raised questions about whether the event would be granted what is known as a "single-event permit" to serve beer.

"There was no possibility, under any circumstance, that Oktoberfest would have been denied," DABC Commission Chairman David Gladwell told FOX 13 on Tuesday. "But we did have to have the discussion and it really helped us."

The DABC was called before state lawmakers last year over how it interpreted the law after the concept of Utah having "Oktoberfest without beer" generated international headlines. On Tuesday, DABC commissioners seemed enthusiastic over the changes.

"I think we've progressed a lot," Gladwell said.

The proposed change to the rule on single-event permits will impact numerous festivals and gatherings statewide, including events like the Utah Arts Festival, the Utah Pride Festival, the Twilight Concert Series and, of course, Oktoberfest.

Under the proposed rule changes, local governments will give input on whether they feel something is a "community event." It does not necessarily have to be a charity, non-profit or city-sponsored event.

"The issue of community, whether this is a community event or not, which used to focus on, 'Is it non-profit or not?' is now whether or not the local community feels it's a community event and does it have a community benefit?" Gladwell told FOX 13.

The DABC Commission is looking at whether or not these festivals or events will require additional security and increased limits on where people can go within the festival space with their drinks.

"It streamlines control measures for events," said DABC Compliance Manager Nina McDermott. "Taking into consideration their size, whether they're indoor or outdoor, whether minors are present. It also allows the director more flexibility to add additional controls or waive them."

Under the proposed rule change, if a festival is denied a permit by the DABC director they can appeal to the full commission. The DABC must also explain why the permit was denied.

"So we are not just arbitrarily denying that permit," McDermott said. "There would have to be a basis for that denial and the commission could have an opportunity to review that denial."

The DABC Commission is expected to approve the rule next month and then undergo a period of public comment before being made official. The DABC said it will take public comment on a state website as well as by email at hotline@utah.gov.