DABC called to Capitol Hill to answer questions about permit applications

- SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Representatives of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control hit the hot seat on Capitol Hill.

They were answering to members of a legislative committee who believe recent actions by the department have turned our state into a laughing stock.

One conservative member of the committee even questioned the need for the DABC.

It all centers around Snowbird’s fear a single use permit could be denied for Oktoberfest.

Members of the Administrative Rules Review Committee fear the perception is hurting the image of our state and costing us money in tourism dollars.

"There appears to be a significant change and I would like to know how that is justified and what the process has been to make that kind of a change," said Senator Jim Dabakis, (D) Salt Lake City.

Dabakis is concerned about how this administration is interpreting state statute and rules on issuing single use permits.

The controversy ignited over DABC discussions of a nonprofit requirement.

Snowbird was concerned about what that means for Oktoberfest and the story went national.

Dabakis says it's the publicity we don't want.

"It just seems as though we are shooting ourselves in the foot," said Dabakis.

DABC Commissioner, John T. Nielsen admits that was part of the discussion, but insists it was never intended as a shift in philosophy at the department.

He says it’s been blown out of proportion.

"There were suggestions the commission was going to make wholesale revisions in the way we dealt with permits and that's just simply not the case," said Nielsen.

He says there are a number of factors to consider and personally he would vote to approve the permit for Oktoberfest.

DABC Director, Sal Petilos believes other commissioners will too when they vote on it later this month.

"I think if you look at the commissioners’ decision with regard to the Snowbird Brewfest, I think there is a sense the majority would vote that way," said Petilos.

The DABC pledged to the committee it would immediately evaluate the process to minimize situations like this.

Even so, questions still persist.

Is the statute ambiguous and does the DABC have too much discretion in applying it?

Conservative Senator and committee member, Mark Madsen drew on his own experience in the restaurant industry when he questioned the very need for the DABC.

"When the government undertakes to socially engineer we run into problems like this and all kinds of unintended consequences," said Madsen.

From here the DABC will work with the committee on potential statutory changes, to make it clearer.

The DABC is also undergoing internal audits and is looking into new rules.

The public will be invited to weigh in over the next couple of months.

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