A month after threatening to slap down Snowbird’s nine weekend-long Oktoberfest celebration, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Tuesday did an about face, giving unanimous approval to Snowbird’s request to pour beer at the event.
In May, the UDABC commission announced it would intensify the scrutiny it gives to single-event permits, which Snowbird has used to put on Oktoberfest. Commissioners said they felt the permits should be reserved for nonprofit organizations and other events that benefit the community.
But the possibility of Snowbird not being allowed to pour beer at its marquee summer event drew fire from local elected officials as well as from state legislators, who said the DABC could change the rule, or the legislature would change it for them.
Though the commission made no mention to the legislature’s nudging, they did say an outpouring of support from the community helped convince them that the event is valued.
“It’s clear that this is a valuable community event that is conducted annually and there is tremendous support for it,” said commission Chairman David Gladwell.
Snowbird Senior Vice President Tom Jones said he’s not sure exactly what changed the minds of commissioners, but whatever it was, he’s glad for it.
“We just appreciate their cooperation,” he said. “It’s a cultural celebration that’s important to Utah; it’s important to Snowbird.”
Commissioner Jeffrey Wright told reporters after the meeting that the past month of discussions surrounding Oktoberfest has been productive, though he acknowledged that the law dictating the special event permits is “very vague.”
“I think it’s fair to have a public discussion,” he said. “We’ve been very transparent about this and I think, again, there’s not a rule that perfectly fits everybody. So, of course, we have to have a public discussion.”
Another controversy came to a close at the meeting: For nearly a year, the restaurant Gusto! has sought a liquor license and on Tuesday, it was finally granted a license that will allow it to serve beer and wine.
The restaurant’s long run-up to winning a license began with its initial requests to open a tavern at 2108 S. 1300 East. But when nearby residents complained about possible parking issues, the commission denied the request.
Gusto! owner Bryce Jones followed this effort up by seeking out different types of licenses, all of which were denied. But just last month, the commission granted a restaurant license to a nearby restaurant, an action Jones said would make it nearly impossible for the commission to block his request.
Even so, Jones’ triumph was marked by uncertainty. Commission members said they had received an eviction notice indicating that legal issues were brewing between Jones and his landlord. Jones confirmed that he and his landlord had pending claims against each other in court, but that he was not being evicted.
Because a restaurant license must be attached to an address, the commission gave Gusto! the license. If Gusto! is evicted, the license could be revoked.
This occupancy issue came into play with a different issue facing Snowbird. The resort, which was recently sold to Ian Cumming, whose family also owns Park City Mountain Resort, must receive approval from the UDABC to change ownership of its quiver of liquor licenses. One of these, a full-service restaurant license that allows the sale of liquor, wine and beer at the Lodge Bistro, has fallen into the commission’s cross hairs because the lease has been under negotiation for the last 60 days. Snowbird’s Jones told the commission that a lease agreement was nearly completed. The commission, though, gave Snowbird until June 30 to show that progress had been made or it could strip the license.