CSU Students Protest and Hold a "Beer-in" in 1968

Drinking culture in Fort Collins may seem pedestrian today, what with nineteen breweries dotting the city’s landscape, but the barbarous beer and bar culture of contemporary Ft. Collins was born of far more conservative roots. How did After the repeal of the Volstead act and the resulting end of prohibition in 1933, Fort Collins maintained prohibition far longer than the majority of the country. How did the town's brew culture evolve? It all comes down to a single number: 3.2.

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Fort Collins remained somewhat dry. On March 22, 1933, the town passed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which allowed lawful distribution and consumption of beer that was 3.2% alcohol by weight - a fairly light brew.

Some thirty-five years later, students of Colorado State University borrowed demonstration tactics employed by civil rights activists to fight for greater student input in what they felt to be an unfair paternal relationship with university administrators—one of the first items on student protestors’ agenda was the accessibility and consumption of 3.2 beer on campus. How better to demonstrate their frustrations than staging a “beer-in” in the student center? Though the student body was far from unanimous on these matters, on Friday, October 18, 1968, the president of the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), Doug Phelps, rallied more than 150 students in the Lory Student Center to stage a “beer-in” under the pretense of liberating the student center.

As early as November of 1965 students had expressed their displeasure with the lack of 3.2 drinking establishments in Fort Collins. A number of students attended the December 7, 1965, meeting that founded the Fort Collins Malt Beverage Association, a group comprised of city officials, existing tavern owners, and other Ft. Collins merchants. Almost exactly two years later, the ASCSU voted to poll the student body to glean student attitudes in support or opposition to the selling of 3.2 beer on campus. By February 1967, the subject had reportedly become a topic of daily discussion and debate. The State Board of Agriculture, the university governing entity, began debating the topic of 3.2 beer sales on campus by the Spring of 1968. In August of the same year, The State Board of Agriculture voted 4-1 against a request to allow the on-campus sale of 3.2 beer by the glass. On October 10, 1968, a helicopter commissioned by student body president Doug Phelps, flew over CSU campus dropping pamphlets urging students to convene for the “liberation” of the Lory Student Center as soon as possible. The resulting crowd discussed issues of student power, and Phelps announced that on October 18 at 3:00 P.M. he intended to drink beer in the student center in an act that was meant to symbolize the potential of student power to dictate Student Center policy. On October 18, 1968, Phelps and more than 150 other students made good on their promise by staging a beer-in in the Student Center Main Ballroom (only approximately 30 actually drank a beer). Students voiced their desire for beer to be sold in the newly constructed Student Center coffee shop which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the current location of the only on-campus drinking establishment, the beloved Ramskeller.

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