We're in a little bit of a gray area because the law is vague. And it's purposefully vague to allow discretion in trying to figure out what serves the community good. I think Oktoberfest serves the community good. —Commissioner Jeff Wright
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control approved Snowbird's application for a single-event permit for this year's Oktoberfest in a commission meeting Tuesday.
The approval came following concern that the annual event of 42 years would be affected by recent changes to the criteria for issuing single-event permits for serving alcohol. Commissioners have since sought to determine whether the new rules give preference to organizations with non-profit status or other community events.
Commissioner Jeff Wright says the vagueness of the law has allowed for discussion between the commission and community members about the law's interpretation and implementation.
"We're in a little bit of a gray area because the law is vague. And it's purposefully vague to allow discretion in trying to figure out what serves the community good," Wright said. "I think Oktoberfest serves the community good."
Oktoberfest is a nine-week event that begins in August and continues each weekend through mid-October. The occasion — known for its sale of beer, wine and spirits — features entertainment and activities highlighting European culture in Utah.
Snowbird Senior Vice President Tom Jones said although the permit was approved unanimously, the movement came with a measure of relief.
"We appreciate (the commission's) cooperation and willingness to understand that Oktoberfest is a cultural celebration. It's important to the state of Utah, it's important to Snowbird," Jones said. "We think it contributes significantly to the state and the community."
Chairman David Gladwell said the commission has received "tremendous" feedback from the community in favor of Oktoberfest, and such feedback is crucial in the commission's implementation of the rule.
"We do take into consideration the community and their feelings and recommendations," Gladwell said. "It's clear that this is a valuable community event."
Wright said the discussions on what "community good" entails will continue as the commission handles each case.
"I would caution everybody that we're not going to have a definitive rule that covers everybody," Wright said. "There's going to have to be discretion of the commission and the staff to say, 'This fits, this doesn't.'"
Snowbird will have to renew its permits for serving alcohol at such events each year, but it's unlikely Oktoberfest will face similar scrutiny in the future, Wright said.
"I think there's an ethereal discussion going on, but I don't think there's a specific problem with Oktoberfest," he said.