Utah’s top alcohol regulator says abuse of single-event permits led the department to clamp down on the one-time licenses, a move that now may threaten alcohol service at Snowbird’s Oktoberfest and similar gatherings.
Sal Petilos, executive director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said repeated requests by the Maverik Center for single-event alcohol permits at the West Valley City arena and requests by the Egyptian Theatre in Park City for similar licenses prompted his office to take a close look at the standards used for issuing them.
The result, he said, has been a shift away from granting single-event permits to for-profit gatherings, instead narrowing the events that might qualify to conventions and community and civic enterprises — which he added is what the statute intended.
“It’s just a concern as to whether the department is using the rules on the books and analyzing these things,” Petilos said during an online Trib Talk with The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.”We may very well be in a Catch-22 if we say we have these rules on the books but we haven’t been following them.”
Snowbird had one request for a permit pending — the 6th Annual Fathers Day Brewfest, scheduled for June 14 and 15. After a long debate during their meeting this week, liquor commissioners approved the single-event permit for Brewfest, but cautioned they might not do the same for Oktoberfest.
DABC compliance director Nina McDermott said that, under the rules, the single-event permits are meant primarily for nonprofit, charitable events.
The administrative rules say the permits are for “gatherings of the common good,” so regulators have to look at whether there is some communal benefit to the event, or if the request comes from a for-profit entity trying to avoid the normal licensing process.
McDermott said that, even if Snowbird’s application is turned down, the resort has a permit to serve low-strength beer — 3.2 percent alcohol by weight — anywhere on the premises.
In the past, however, Snowbird has also served wine at Oktoberfest and some beer with a higher alcohol content, which would not be allowed under the resort’s existing license.
One idea that Petilos said has been floated is allowing the permittee to donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to a charity.
“We would be concerned with subterfuge versus actual intent to benefit the community or charitable organization,” he said. “Those are questions I wouldn’t know how to answer unless I had an actual application in front of me.”