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Update: Oktoberfest to have beer, DABC unanimously approves event

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Posted at 11:57 AM, Jun 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-24 13:20:45-04

UPDATE: Snowbird's Oktoberfest will have beer.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control unanimously voted to approve the event Tuesday morning.

Also, a package liquor agency has been approved for the Snowbird resort.

When an area is too small to warrant a state store, private and corporate groups contract with the state to open a liquor store.

SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers grilled Utah's liquor control agency over its rules and policies that could lead to "Oktoberfest without beer."

In a hearing before the Utah State Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee on Monday, lawmakers questioned why the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission was scrutinizing who gets so-called "single event permits," generating international headlines.

"The commission seems to bore in on issues which are not particularly law enforcement-related, but manage to turn Utah into the laughing stock of the world," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.

FOX 13 first reported in May that the DABC was scrutinizing how it hands out single-event permits for festivals and other events. Liquor agency commissioners were looking at whether the events being held really were community events, or just money-makers for the business hosting them.

Snowbird, which sought a permit for its annual "BrewFest," raised concerns that it could doom their wildly popular Oktoberfest. Snowbird submitted their applications for Oktoberfest on Thursday, Petilos told FOX 13. The full commission was expected to vote on it later this month.

Appearing before lawmakers on Monday, DABC Commissioner John Nielsen said they were reviewing their rules, to comply with what the Utah State Legislature intended.

"Sometimes those rules create more confusion than they do help," he said.

DABC Commissioners planned to review their policies on granting or denying single-event permits beginning Tuesday. The Utah State Legislature may also become involved during the next session.

"I think what we've been moving towards, legislatively, and putting into action over the past number of years is to create more hospitality and not hostility," said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.

DABC Director Sal Petilos told the committee they follow the rules and statutes passed by the legislature. Lawmakers pressed him on what had changed to prompt such scrutiny.

"Given the history of DABC, I wanted to make sure we were in compliance," he said, referring to a series of scandals that rocked the agency in previous years.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Sandy, said the situation created a "perfect storm" of bad publicity for the state. He urged the DABC to consult with the legislature about intent.

"That's just a word of advice from a Monday-morning quarterback," he said. "As you look at rewriting the rule to avoid this international attention to 'Utah as a place you don't want to vacation,' if you would give us feedback as a legislature on things to make your job easier to accomplish things."

Throughout the hour-long hearing, DABC staffers insisted they were acting on what the legislature passed and intended, with lawmakers countering that they were frustrated with headlines mocking Utah's liquor laws.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, made a bold statement by suggesting it was time Utah got out of the liquor control business.

"Every time government embarks on a social engineering quest, there are always consequences," he said.

Other lawmakers did not appear to share his sentiment.

"That's best left for another argument," Sen. Stephenson replied.

See the list of single event/temporary beer permits approved and denied by the DABC since May 2014: