A long-brewing issue, the Fort Collins, Colorado City Council voted to permit the sale of beer, wine, and liquors on April 8, 1969 and passed Ordinance No. 14. The voices of the community, including local businessmen, politicians, and the Colorado State University student population, were integral in influencing this decision.

The repeal of prohibition in Fort Collins was not easily completed. In 1969 a petition was circulated for the third time to end prohibition. First in 1961 and again in 1965, the petition had been defeated due to strong moral opposition from religious organizations. Yet, as Dr. Thomas Bennett, Mayor of Fort Collins from 1967 to 1968 pointed out, there were two liquor stores within city limits that held liquor licenses from Larimer County. Outside city limits, there were establishments like Ladd’s Covered Wagon. In 1961, owner Lloyd Ladd was granted a liquor license from Larimer County for his restaurant just north of Fort Collins. Fort Collins residents who wished to drink had several options to do so.

Dr. Thomas Bennett stepped down as mayor of Fort Collins in 1968 to serve as a councilman for the city and worked with others to end prohibition. Dr. Bennett felt passionately this was the moment to repeal prohibition. His primary argument was based on economics. The numerous bars and restaurants at the edge of city limits were proof of the profitability of alcohol sales. A new revenue stream, and the local jobs bars and liquor stores would generate, were appealing to the city council and the local community. Another source of pressure on the city council was the increase in student enrollment, specifically military veterans on the GI Bill, at Colorado State University (CSU). The 1968 Beer-In at CSU, referenced in the previous article, spoke volumes about the attitudes of college students towards prohibition. Two other college towns along the Front Range area were also in the process of repealing their own long-standing prohibition laws: Boulder, repealed in 1967 and Greeley in 1969.

The first legally sold drink of spirituous liquor since 1896 was sold in Fort Collins on August 8, 1969, at 5:00 pm in the Top Restaurant, located on the top floor of the Rocky Mountain Bank and Trust building. Les Ware, the owner of the Top Restaurant, had photographers on hand to commemorate the event. Red Ferrell, owner of Campus West Liquors and Larimer County liquor inspector at the time of the Fort Collins prohibition repeal, received the first license to sell packaged liquors in the city. Nancy Kavastanjian, staff writer for The Coloradoan newspaper, interviewed Ferrell in 1977 for a piece on the end of prohibition in Fort Collins. Ferrell reflected on the growth of liquor stores within Fort Collins, commenting that he “didn’t think it was healthy for a community to have that many.”

After the repeal, the number of bars and liquor stores within city limits did increase quickly. According to Ferrell, the saturation of the market limited individual business earnings. The moral orientation of the town was still influential, limiting large-scale production and distribution of alcohol in Fort Collins for another two decades, when once again, it was the economic appeal of new businesses and new jobs that presented themselves in the form of beer production and breweries.

Images

Thomas Bennett
Thomas Bennett Thomas Bennett, Mayor of Fort Collins from 1967-1968. Source: http://database.history.fcgov.com/cdm/ref/collection/ph/id/44424
The Top Restaurant
The Top Restaurant The first legal drink being served at the Top Restaurant at the Rocky Mountain Bank building in 1969. Source: Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. http://fcmod.org/blog/2017/08/02/first-spirituous-drink-20th-century-fort-collins/
City Hall
City Hall Fort Collins City Hall in 1959. Source: http://database.history.fcgov.com/cdm/singleitem/collection/ph/id/8884/rec/26
Campus West Liquor Store
Campus West Liquor Store A photograph of the Campus West Liquor store, the first liquor store in Fort Collins. Source: Photograph by Keanu Squire.
Rocky Mountain Bank Building
Rocky Mountain Bank Building This building formerly was the Rocky Mountain Bank Building. Source: Photograph by Keanu Squire.

Location

Metadata

Rose Gorrell, Colton Morton, and Keanu Squire, Colorado State University, “A Thirst for Freedom in a Dry Town,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/134.