When we first moved there in 1978 I think it was still dry, and I know there were no liquor stores. And restaurants? Not very many.
Actually, Evanston City Council approved the sale of liquor in the city's hotels and restaurants in 1972, and Northwestern followed suit in 1975. I was a student at NU and living in Evanston when the changes were made. If I remember correctly, the impetus was Holiday Inn, which would not build in Evanston (at Sherman and Lake--it's now a Best Western) unless they could serve liquor. At first, you could not order a drink unless you ordered food also. There was a Greek restaurant called Corinthian Column on Noyes (I think) where students would order a plate of french fries and nibble at it while ordering rounds of drinks.
Evanston First, the city's first liquor store (duh!), did not open until 1984, with the Osco that used to occupy the SW corner of Sherman and Church eventually getting the second retail liquor license.
From the NU website:
The changing culture and economic hard times in Evanston led the City Council in 1972 to approve the sale of liquor by an 11 to 8 margin, with one abstention. Supporters said liquor licenses would help businesses such as hotels and restaurants in the central business district.
Northwestern followed the trend in 1975, after the State of Illinois began allowing the sale of beer and wine to persons 19 years old. Northwestern students, who wanted a bar at Norris University Center, were the impetus for Northwestern’s lawsuit, which asked the Cook County Circuit Court if the local option law implicitly repealed the charter ban on alcohol sales within four miles of the campus. The University won its case, applied for a liquor license from Evanston and began serving liquor on campus, ending the ban on alcohol sales that had survived more than 120 years [since 1855].