The Utah DABC will likely be re-writing its rules covering special-event liquor licenses following a special meeting with a Legislative committee that grilled liquor control officials on recent enforcement decisions that have, according to Sen. Jim Dabakis, made Utah the “laughing stock” of the world.
The Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Commission Monday questioned DABC officials about an apparent change in the review procedure for Selected Single Event Permit liquor licenses after the issue made news around the world when it appeared that the DABC was going to enforce ”Oktoberfest without Beer in Utah” at Snowbird’s annual Oktoberfest celebration.
Dabakis complained that the ruling undid the millions the state spends on promoting tourism by sending a message through 70 media outlets and 7 million social media posts that it was impossible to get a drink in Utah. The DABC fed widespread ridicule of the state, he said. “It turned us into the laughing stock of the world.”
The long and the short of the meeting is that it appears the DABC will be rewriting some of its rules and treading more carefully in the future. In the case of single-use special licenses, the emphasis on the profit or nonprofit status of the group requesting the permit will likely be removed from DABC rules (the statute itself doesn’t use that language).
DABC Commissioner John T. Nielsen said the profit vs. non-profit emphasis is “nonsense.”
“That particular issue has been given far too much emphasis. I don’t think that distinction is appropriate.” Nielson says it will not longer be the determining factor. Rather, he said, the special license should be based on “community purposes for the common good.”
Sen. Gene Davis said the DABC should be more concerned with creating “more hospitality and not hostility toward alcohol and people who consume these beverages.”
Dabakis remained skeptical that another embarrassing DABC enforcement fiasco would not happen again and “subject the state to ridicule.” “What can you do to tamp that down?” He asked the liquor control officials.
Nielson said he hoped the issues are in the past, but acknowledged, “As long as you have liquor laws and the interpretation of those laws, and people who don’t like those laws, you’re going to have this problem.”
DABC Director Salvador Petilos said. “I’m not sure it can be fully avoided.”
Note: It would seem likely that misunderstandings will continue, considering how willfully inarticulate Petilos was at the committee hearing. Listen here and see if you can make sense of his rambling responses to the lawmakers' questions. It's questionable that this cover-one's-ass bureaucrat can write clear liquor enforcement rules.