The Matterhorn was a popular restaurant/bar for students and community members to go and drink 3.2% beer while they get some food as well. While the Matterhorn no longer exists, its influence and legacy helped shape drinking culture within Fort Collins.
Backstory and Context
From the very beginning of the town, advertisements encouraging people to settle in Fort Collins discouraged alcohol consumption, proclaiming, “What we do not want is whiskey saloons or gambling halls. This tradition was long standing in Fort Collins and much of its early history was focused on trying to “establish Fort Collins as a sober-sided little town, different from the riotous mining and ditch camps that were the hallmark of the frontier; a place where one could put down roots and raise children.”. This was further promoted by the heavy religious community of Presbyterians and Methodists such as the Liberal Christian Society, who saw the consumption of alcohol as something sinful which turned ordinary family men into deadbeats who were easily angered. Following this backlash, eventually, Fort Collins achieved complete prohibition of alcohol in Fort Collins in 1896. This tradition of prohibition would last for the next 70 years.
During this period of prohibition, Fort Collins remained a completely ‘dry town’ up until 1935, when Fort Collins permitted certain establishments to sell 3.2% beer. The Matterhorn was one of these locations. For members of the community, these locations were the only place to consume alcohol unless they left the city and went elsewhere. Part of the reason the Matterhorn was able to achieve this access, was that it promoted itself primarily as a dance hall and restaurant. By doing this, the were able to make the case that their intent was to create a better dining experience and that they weren’t promoting the use of alcohol. In 1969 however, Fort Collins officially repealed their prohibition legislation and the Matterhorn was able to achieve a liquor license that year.
Shortly thereafter, the Matterhorn was shutdown however, due to a building fire, and the location was demolished for new development. Despite its shutdown, the Matterhorn was a pioneer for a new emerging market in Fort Collins. As alcohol was legalized, people needed places to go and drink with their friends, and one of the most popular were dancehalls. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Fort Collins saw multiple dance halls such as Orion’s Belt and the Electric Stampede which mimicked the much of the same business models of the Matterhorn. These locations quickly became popular for young people during the era of discos, until their popularity started to decline in the late 1980’s. This was largely because the era of dancehalls had come to and end, and the emergence of the craft brew industry began.
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