There was quite the dust-up a few years ago – the headlines seemed to fit nicely on The Onion’s website, but seemed embarrassingly out of place on outlets such as the New York Times and Fox News: Utah’s Denies Beer Licence for Oktoberfest festivities.
Even the most ardent teetotaler will admit that Oktoberfest and beer go hand-in-hand and if Utah is going to have the event, flowing suds should be expected.
So it seemed odd for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) to threaten that the yearly event, rooted in tradition and custom, was not being done by a “civic or community group that promoted a common good” (as required by the DABC to receive the special event permit). Snowbird, it was felt, was only interested in profit.
[pullquote]Utah received quite the black eye when it threatened to prevent beer sales at Snowbird’s Oktoberfest in 2014 – HB 13 looks to prevent such strange interpretations going forward.[/pullquote]No doubt, Snowbird does profit from the Oktoberfest activities, but to boil the event down to profiteering ignores Utah’s deep Germanic roots and disregards the civic nature of the event.
Ultimately, the DABC voted unanimously to approve the special event permit – but the damage was done. Utah’s reputation for being backwards on liquor laws was, once again, reinforced, and we were left to explain why it something as obvious as a permit for Oktoberfest had to be harshly defended to a board of largely non-drinkers.
With HB 13, Representative Curt Oda (Republican – Clearfield), hopes to clean up the portion of the code that caused this embarrassment in the first place with his bill, Alcoholic Beverage Event Permit Amendments.
Oda’s bill makes a few key changes to the event permit process. Under current law, a person requesting a permit has the vague requirement to prove that they can adequately control for crowds of 1,000 people or more and/or can control for an outdoor public event. Under Oda’s legislation, a permit requester has to show what specific measures are in place to prevent underage drinking and overconsumption and acknowledges that this enforcement is different for different types of events.
Because of the higher standard, Oda also provides an incentive to stay in the DABC’s good graces. Currently the head of the DABC can issue a temporary licence, and it will be automatically granted – unless three or more DABC commissioners request a meeting to evaluate the licence. At that time the full DABC board may or may not grant the permit. Oda’s legislation changes one key word: “may.” If successful, the law would read that, even after the calling of a meeting, the DABC “shall” grant the permit so long as the applicant has clearly demonstrated that they are able to hold incident free events.
In esseence, permits could only be denied if the requestor couldn’t specifically show that they were protecting the public interest.
If successful, this bill would be a way to continue to normalize Utah’s out of date and out of touch liquor laws – and hopefully create a few less headlines in the future.
However, this is not the first time we have seen something like this. Oda attempted a similar bill last year – that bill would pass the House unanimously before dying in the Senate.
To contact Representative Oda, Click Here or call 801-773-9796 (Home).
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