Lawyer wants Snowbird’s Oktoberfest liquor permit revoked

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 15:54:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The lawyer for a family in the midst of a lawsuit against Snowbird appeared before the state’s liquor control commission, asking it to revoke the alcohol permit for Oktoberfest.

“The way alcohol is served and presented encourages drinking,” Jim McConkie, the lawyer for Brent and Laura Anderson, told Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The Andersons are suing Snowbird over a 2014 assault that took place during Oktoberfest, when the family claims it was attacked by a group of drunken people. They accuse Snowbird of not doing enough to prevent it.

On Tuesday, McConkie presented the commission with accusations of liquor law violations at last year’s Oktoberfest, including over-serving people, pictures of people who appeared to have stumbled or passed out, and a video of what he claimed was a drunken driving incident. He also claimed police officers on site providing security did nothing.

But some members of the DABC commission appeared skeptical of the accusations. One asked why McConkie didn’t call police when he spotted these violations.

“You don’t know if he’s taking that drink, that other drink to his wife, his girlfriend? You’re just assuming he’s drinking both of them,” Commissioner Olivia Agraz said to McConkie as she looked at the pictures. “Whether somebody is down on the floor, who knows? Maybe he had an epileptic attack.”

McConkie said at the very least, his clients would like to see a sobriety checkpoint outside Snowbird during Oktoberfest.

Snowbird pushed back against the accusations, defending its record and pointing out the Anderson family’s ongoing litigation.

“Throughout the 44 years snowbird has hosted Oktoberfest, the resort has never received an alcohol violation, notice of infraction or other citation regarding its alcohol service,” said Tom Jones, Snowbird’s Senior Vice-President. “And I hope I don’t jinx myself when I say that.”

DABC Commission Chairman John Nielsen asked staffers to look into the claims, but there may not be much that can be done. If a potential violation comes up, it could be discussed during Oktoberfest’s application for the 2016 celebration.

Oktoberfest is a sensitive subject around the DABC. In 2014, as the agency was revising its rules on handing out liquor permits for community festivals and events, it raised questions about whether Snowbird qualified. The idea of “Oktoberfest without beer” generated international headlines and tongue-lashing from a legislative committee.

McConkie told FOX 13 he also planned to approach the Utah State Legislature about the issue.

“We also want to approach the legislature and raise this as a public issue. It’s a legitimate safety issue in our community,” he said.