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Wyoming Joins Rest of Nation With 21-year-old Drinking Age With AM-New Laws Bjt

July 1, 1988

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Time ran out Thursday for 19- and 20-year-old drinkers in Wyoming, which capitulated to what the governor called ″federal blackmail″ and became the last state to raise its drinking age to 21.

A Casper bar promoted discounted drink prices Thursday night and free T- shirts during ″The Final Countdown.″

After several years of bucking the government’s dictate that Wyoming raise the age limit to 21 or lose a percentage of its highway funds, the Legislature earlier this year reluctantly acceded.

Gov. Mike Sullivan issued a plea this week for a smooth transition when the law took effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

″We were the last state in the Union to adopt the national 21-year-old drinking age, and now the attention of the country is focused on us briefly,″ he said Wednesday.

″Let us make this change go smoothly and effectively, and let us hope that it brings the results for which it is intended - a reduction in alcohol- related deaths and injuries on our highways.″

The Democratic governor urged 19- and 20-year-old drinkers to observe the change ″with the maturity that you have shown consistently throughout this debate.″

Many 19- and 20-year-olds voiced their opposition to the law Thursday night.

″Just when my friends all turn of age, they smack it to me,″ said 19- year-old Tom Evans. ″If I get arrested for drinking under age, I’m going to raise hell. They shouldn’t be taking our rights away. If I’m old enough to go to war, I’m old enough to drink.″

Wayne Hassinger, a 20-year-old at a bar in Cheyenne, agreed. ″Once you’ve given someone a right, I don’t think you ought to take it away,″ he said.

″I’ll just drink at home,″ said 19-year-old Jim Satorius.

While Sullivan said the state would not tolerate drunken drivers at any age, he expressed displeasure with the way the state was forced to raise the limit.

″To the nation, I say that Wyoming has complied, somewhat reluctantly, with the edict that the national drinking age be 21. Many of us did not and do not agree with the manner in which this came to pass,″ he said. ″Federal blackmail should not be arbitrarily substituted for thoughtful, rational debate on complex issues.″

While the Legislature raised the age limit, it did not ban 19-and 20-year- olds from bars. Some communities passed ordinances banning them as of Friday. In other communities, liquor associations decided on bans of their own.

The Natrona County Liquor Dealers Association voted unanimously Wednesday to ban 19- and 20-year-olds from its watering holes after the Casper City Council failed to institute such a ban.

″I’d rather not serve″ a 19- or 20-year-old than see him get killed in a wreck afterward, said Nick Kamboris of the Paradise Lounge in Casper.

Cheyenne tavern owners also agreed to ban the younger customers.

″We’d really like to be able to keep them in,″ said K.C. Ryan, assistant manager for Mingles. ″A lot of that age group are really good, regular customers. We’ll lose a lot of business. But with the fines and insurance rate problems, we just can’t let them in.″

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