Fate of beer, wine at Utah festivals a focus for vendors, lawmakers

Posted at 4:58 PM, Jun 14, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- The fate of beer and wine at Utah’s many festivals and fundraisers has been under close review by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in the last few weeks.

Monday, the commission will have to answer to legislators who are questioning the necessity. Meanwhile, one of the festivals in question is going on up at Snowbird.

Father’s Day weekend for the last six years has meant Brewfest up at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but this year was the first time the resort saw some resistance from state regulators when it applied for a liquor permit for the event.

“We found out that it was being examined more closely," said Dave Fields, who is the vice president of resort operations at Snowbird. “We had for the last five years received a permit no problem, so we got very involved went down and made the case that this is a community event, that it is appropriate for a single event permit, and they granted that and we appreciated it very much.”

Back in May, the DABC announced the desire to become more selective when it comes to issuing single event beer and wine permits for festivals and fundraisers.

“We are looking at these by a case by case basis,” DABC Commission Chairman David Gladwell said in May. “We do analyze them carefully as you can see the commission is divided.”

The commission wants to make sure the events are actually benefiting the community.

State senator Jim Dabakis said regulators are going beyond their duties. In a statement he said, "These are not laws, they do not make us safer. They are just weird interpretations of rules made by the DABC."

Dabakis is on a legislative committee planning to grill DABC managers on Monday.

“We just felt that maybe we were allowing something the legislature had not intended, we felt like previous commissions had maybe drifted a little bit from the rules we had imposed on ourselves,” Gladwell said of the issue.

Most festivals like Brewfest have many vendors that don’t sell alcohol at all, but they certainly rely on the crowd that alcohol can draw.

“This is our primary place to sell as vendors, and if they take away the alcohol, people are gonna go and I’ll lose thousands of dollars,” Festival Vendor Thomas McGarry said.

McGarry hand makes jewelry and leather purses and sells them at festivals like Brewfest and Oktoberfest. He’s been doing it at Snowbird for 10 years now and he, like many of the vendors here, have come to rely on the income.

“There’s probably eight or 10 vendors here that have been here every year and all of us really rely on Oktoberfest for selling our wares” he said.

But Snowbird’s not sweating it. Oktoberfest has been running at the resort for four decades and many see it as a Utah tradition.

“We’re very optimistic that it will go on as it has for many years… We have a lot of employees we hire just for Oktoberfest and things like Brewfest so it’s a very important part of the community on the economic side as well,” Fields said.

Brewfest continues through Sunday. Click here for details about the event.