Allowing the sale or service of alcoholic beverages in the Township or in the villages was a hotly contested issue for 75 years.

With the town of Evanston — home of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) — at the forefront, residents felt temperance added to the tone and quality of life in the Township villages.

There was one outstanding exception: the village of Gross Point, which was incorporated in 1874 west of Wilmette. Along the eastern boundary of Gross Point — now called Ridge Road — a number of saloons thrived. The German farmers liked their lager.

A referendum in 1909 banned the sale of alcoholic beverages under a local option law. Gertrude M. Thurston, who later was elected New Trier Township Supervisor, was quoted as urging members of the Winnetka Woman’s Club to support the drys by "using our influence and our tongues in reminding our husbands to vote." She and the other ladies had no vote at that time.

With large debts accumulated for a sewer project and with ten years of no money coming in from liquor licenses, the Village of Gross Point went bankrupt in 1919, and was annexed to Wilmette in 1924.

In a few more years the issue was more or less settled. In the 1970s, a new hotel in Evanston was the reason that town finally allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants that served food. The village allowed only one package store, which is still operating today. In 1974, Wilmette passed an ordinance that allowed beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores. The voters approved by 5,778 to 3,223 the sale of liquor in restaurants when patrons purchased food. Package stores were approved by a 4 to 2 vote of the village board. The other Township villages passed similar ordinances in the 1980s.

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