March 28, 1974: Liquor ban surrounding UMD lifted by state law

On this day in 1974, the liquor ban surrounding the University of Minnesota Duluth was lifted, allowing sales within one mile of campus. In 1955, when UMD moved from its Old Campus to a new site on a former dairy farm, a new state law prohibited sales of alcohol within a one-mile radius of the college’s 1955 Kirby Student Center, which included portions of the Kenwood, Chester Park, and Hunter’s Park neighborhoods. The state’s legal drinking age was 21, and most of the university’s students were not. In May 1973 Minnesota lowered the state’s legal drinking age to eighteen, invalidating all local ordinances. At midnight on May 31, 1973, Duluth’s college students—and some high schoolers—suddenly became customers. The board addressed the idea of lifting the one-mile radius ban surrounding the UMD campus. In September the city council passed an ordinance that opened all of Duluth’s commercial districts to liquor sales, “Except,” as the Duluth News Tribune reported, “for the statutory sacred cows of the Lakeside and UMD areas.” Both UMD and Lakeside were governed by state laws, so the local ordinance meant nothing to those two areas. The UMD issue was raised at the 1974 legislative session, and a measure lifting the ban passed March 28. Soon Duluth liquor stores began delivering to UMD dorms, and the Kirby Student Center’s Bull Pub served beer. The legal drinking age was raised to 19 in 1976 and again to 21 in 1986, putting an end to on-campus deliveries. Today UMD is officially a dry campus, and about a half dozen liquor stores and restaurants with full liquor licenses operated within a mile of Kirby Student Center. Read about all of Duluth’s post-Prohibition liquor laws, some of which seem just plain silly to us today, here.

A 1955 state law prohibited alcohol sales within a one-mile radius of UMD’s Kirby Student Center. The blue squares indicated businesses with on- or off-self liquor licenses operating within the district since the law as repealed in 1974. (Image: Google/Zenith City)

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