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Liquor Glass Raised To Toast End to Prohibition In Long-Dry Kansas

July 2, 1987

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Liquor glasses were held aloft as public drinking became legal for the first time in 106 years in Kansas, where temperance crusader Carry Nation once tried to put saloons out of business with an ax.

″People are drinking today,″ said Michele Foley-Harpool, co-owner of Le Beaujolais, a restaurant in Wichita. ″They’re sort of celebrating. It’s like they’re finally out of jail or something.″

Restaurant owners and patrons said Wednesday’s end to prohibition, brought about by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November, will attract conventions, tourists and better eating establishments.

People in 36 of the state’s 105 counties can now sit at a public bar and drink. Previously, wine or cocktails could be served only at establishments designated as private clubs, and patrons needed $10 plastic membership cards.

The amendment gave counties the option of being ″wet″ or ″dry.″ Private clubs remain the rule in the 69 counties that voted against repeal.

Wet areas includes all three major metropolitan areas - Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka - and smaller cities such as Lawrence, Hutchinson, Emporia, Hays, City, Dodge City, Atchison and Leavenworth.

The change leaves Utah and West Virginia as the only states that permit alcoholic drinks to be sold only in private clubs.

″The main benefit will be in tourism and in attracting conventions to Topeka and other parts of the state,″ said Bob Fraser, general manager of Carlos O’Kelly’s Mexican Cafe in Topeka.

Jerry Gaines, owner of Maggie Jones Southport Cafe in Overland Park, said public drinking will prevent the loss of entertainment dollars to Missouri, where liquor has flowed publicly for years.

″Most good restaurants can’t survive on straight food alone,″ he said. ″If you didn’t have liquor by the drink, you’d have to charge more for a steak. You need the profits of liquor by the drink.″

Many restaurants planned miniature bonfires of the membership cards that were needed even to buy a drink with dinner under the system of private clubs authorized by the Legislature in 1965.

A Wichita restaurant pledged 25 cents to charity for each card turned in, and placed a brass champagne bucket by the front door as a receptacle. Souvenir shirts marking the change were also for sale.

The Rev. Richard E. Taylor, leader of the state temperance forces, called the celebrations ″the most childish way of observing a change in state law I can imagine.″

″I was really surprised by the immature way they ushered in the serving by the drink of our most abused drug,″ he said. ″I suppose it would be even more ridiculous if we legalized cocaine and heroin.″

Kansas more than a century ago became the first state to write prohibition into its constitution, nearly 40 years before it became part of the U.S. Constitution.

The restriction was widely violated, and Nation destroyed saloon liquor and property in Topeka and Wichita in 1900 and 1901. Liquor became more and more accessible in Kansas after repeal of national Prohibition in 1933.

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