URBANA — Support has been pouring in for Urbana restaurant Apple Dumplin’ since its owners decided to defy state and local officials and remain open for indoor service, said co-owner Jim Flaningam.
“I probably have 10,000 messages in the past week-and-a-half,” Flaningam said Monday. “I cannot get to all of them.”
The emails have been supportive, and business at the restaurant at 2014 N. High Cross Road, U, has been brisk, he said.
That’s despite the fact that local health officials suspended Apple Dumplin’s health permit last week for continuing to serve indoors in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.
Flaningam said customers have been waiting in their cars for open tables, and they’ve been coming from as far as Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
“It’s insane how much support I have,” Flaningam said.
Apple Dumplin’ was one of three restaurants where the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District or Champaign County Public Health Department — both staffed by the same people at the same location — suspended health permits last week for serving indoors.
The other two included Billy Bob’s in Ogden and Merry-Ann’s Diner in Champaign.
Merry-Ann’s owner Katie Pomonis said business has also remained steady for her diner 1510 S. Neil St., C.
“The students aren’t here, so we don’t have that, but we’ve had a terrific response from the townies,” she said. “There are a lot of them that want to dine out and a lot of them that agree that they should be allowed to do that and that we should be allowed to be running a restaurant.”
Flaningam is one of the organizers of a rally in support of restaurants coming up at 10 a.m. Saturday outside the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District building at 201 W. Kenyon Road, C.
He and others emphasized this is intended to be a peaceful rally to support displaced restaurant workers and others impacted by restaurant and bar closures.
Mahomet Realtor Nick Taylor, also one of the event organizers, said his intent is to highlight the plight of restaurant workers losing their jobs since the state’s COVID-19 mitigation guidance began forbidding indoor service last month.
It’s not about politics, he said.
Beyond employees, there are others being impacted who are part of the restaurant industry’s supply chain, Taylor said.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health has also been stringently enforcing the rules, according to its director, Gail O’Neill.
That department has been revoking health permits and issuing $500 fines to establishments that aren’t complying with the state guidance, she said.
“We have pulled quite a few permits,” O’Neill said.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, restaurants and bars have been potential COVID-19 exposure locations for 5.6 percent of the cases in the 21-county Region 6 area that includes Champaign, Douglas, Ford, Piatt and Vermilion counties.
In just Champaign County, however, bars and restaurants have been linked to a larger share of cases — 15.3 percent — for the cases in which location information has been shared, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Bars and restaurants rank second in exposure locations only to gatherings in private homes, to which 15.7 percent of COVID-19 cases countywide have been linked.
How much other categories factor in as exposure locations in Champaign County, according to the public health district:
- Hospitals/clinics: 13.9 percent.
- Other (such as travel and vacations): 8.3 percent.
- School: 4.9 percent.
- College: 4.3 percent.
- In persons’ own homes: 3.9 percent.
- Business/retail: 3.6 percent.
- Places of worship: 3.3 percent.
- Offices: 3.04 percent.
- Non-office workplaces: 2.7 percent.
- Doctors’ offices: 1.74 percent.
- Events and mass gatherings: 1.7 percent.
- Gyms and health clubs: 1.5 percent.
- Grocery stores: 1.34 percent.
- Indoor sports facilities: 1.24 percent.
- Dental offices. 1.17 percent.
- Factories: 1.07 percent.
Exposure locations for dozens of other categories were each linked to below 1 percent of cases in Champaign County.