Promoter Beats Liquor Law Dispute

Randy Barton, head of Utah non-profit concert organizer Mountain Town Stages, was acquitted July 13th on charges of violating state and county liquor laws after a jury ruled he wasn’t really selling alcohol without a permit.

Barton gave visitors complimentary beer and wine during a free local music event last summer at the Peoa Fairgrounds in Park City, Utah, while collecting donations for the non-profit, which produces shows at various venues in the city including the 5,000-capacity The Forum at The Canyons.

The Summit County Clerk’s office charged him with unlawfully selling alcoholic beverages during one-time events July 8th and July 22nd of last year.

“It was a year-long ordeal that I’m happy to see resolved in favor of hospitality,” Barton told Pollstar. “What we successfully defended, what I successfully defended, was the right to provide a legal product to others complimentary.”

The prosecution argued it was understood that anyone picking up a drink was required to pay by donation – the same as selling and therefore requiring a permit. But witnesses said during the trial they didn’t consider their donations payments, according to local newspaper Park Record.

Utah alcohol laws can be confusing, Barton said. One defense witness, a sheriff, reportedly told him during one show that he was unaware of any laws prohibiting Barton from giving drinks away. Barton said had he obtained a permit for the event, he would be specifically forbidden by law to provide complimentary drinks.

Barton, who described himself as a critic of the state’s alcohol laws, said drinks and concerts go hand-in-hand and that “complicated and irrational” Utah laws are his company’s biggest obstacle.

“Look where music occurs: It occurs where there’s an availability of alcohol,” he said. “You don’t find music on the type of scale in bookstores or coffeehouses that you do in clubs, venues and stadiums.”

He could have faced six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each of the four counts against him.

– Ryan Borba