After ‘Oktoberfest without beer’ flap, DABC making changes to rules

Posted at 4:43 PM, Aug 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-21 00:04:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- After a blow-up over the potential for an "Oktoberfest without beer," Utah's liquor authority is making changes to its rules for festival alcohol permits.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has asked for input from cities across the state about community events and festivals. The DABC is asking for local officials to have more involvement in granting or denying single-event permits.

"I think it's important to hear from them as to whether or not these are legitimate community events and if they're supported by the local entities," DABC Commissioner John Nielsen said at a July meeting.

FOX 13 first reported in May about renewed scrutiny by the DABC on what qualifies for a permit. The DABC's decisions provoked a public and political backlash when Snowbird raised concerns its decades-old tradition of Oktoberfest might not qualify for a liquor permit. The idea of "Oktoberfest without beer" generated international headlines and angered some in the Utah State Legislature.

"I think the legislature is going to keep a very close eye on that and make sure that the liquor commission, just like everybody else, follows the law," Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said Wednesday.

The DABC has said it follows the laws passed by the legislature, but is reviewing its single-event permit policies. Public comment will also be taken before any rule changes are made.

Snowbird got its permit for Oktoberfest, which opened for the season on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Dabakis said he is contemplating some liquor legislation of his own with the resignation of Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who carried much of the liquor laws. Dabakis told FOX 13 he intends to meet with representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to talk about the state of Utah's liquor laws. The LDS Church is a powerful force on Utah's Capitol Hill, and has said in the past that the state's liquor laws are just fine the way they are.

Dabakis disagrees. In an interview with FOX 13, he said he'd like to see the DABC's "Intent to Dine" rule go. ("Intent to Dine" is where one must state they will order food in a restaurant before they get an alcoholic beverage.) Dabakis said he believes "Zion Curtains," separate preparation areas that do not allow restaurant patrons to see drinks being made, will likely stay for another year.

"There are a number of things that are just preposterous, that make out-of-towners and tourists terribly uncomfortable and don't provide any amount of additional safety that we can just do away with," Dabakis said. "I think we can get everyone to agree on those things."