Red Herring loses donor funding

By Kelly Gibbs

The Red Herring Restaurant, a 30-year-old establishment in Urbana, has had generous support during its lifetime from a donor who paid for the restaurant’s expenses.

However, just last week the nonprofit vegetarian restaurant was told their previous benefactor will no longer fund their efforts.

The restaurant in the basement of the Channing-Murray Foundation, 1209 W. Oregon St., began as a coffee shop. Now, the Red Herring does both – a lunch venue during the day and a coffee house Friday and Saturday nights.

The daily menu includes $5 vegetarian entrees cooked from scratch, and their fair trade organic coffee costs $1 for a bottomless cup.

“We know most of our costumers by name; it is a very personal place,” said Ally Simmons, customer service manager.

The restaurant does not own any produce with which to prepare meals.

Restaurant manager Chad Knowles plans to make an order next week after receiving much needed donations.

“We have gathered a lot of support,” Knowles said. “The customers have shown that it is just as important for them to keep the restaurant going for another 30 years.”

Knowles created a Facebook group to garner support for the nonprofit restaurant after he was informed that the private benefactor would no longer be donating money, in part because of the economic downturn.

Because some of the restaurant equipment is secondhand, one of the employees’ goals is to turn enough profit to replace the dated machinery.

The profit would improve the restaurant and not go to the foundation or to the employees.

“The more people come the fancier the food gets,” Knowles said.

The management staff’s goal is to make $1,000 by the weekend.

This profit would allow the Red Herring to have food to serve after Thanksgiving break.

“For the month, our goal is to pay back $3,700 we owe from our supporter,” Knowles said. “If we do this by the end of the month, it will make it a lot easier. We have to turn a profit of $3,000 for the rest of the year in order to re-open next year.”

Knowles’ goal for the year is to raise $7,000, which would help to ensure the Red Herring’s doors would be open next year.

“There seems to be a lot of local support for the restaurant, and it’s a shame for it to close due to loss of monetary support,” said Sydney Slutzky, senior in FAA.

“A place that offers such a unique menu would benefit our campus by giving vegetarians more dining options.”

The hope is that their customer base has expanded enough to keep the doors of the Red Herring open. Another one of Knowles’ goals is to double the customer base.

“One of our plans to promote the restaurant is to do more educational programs, we have a cooking class available for community members and are embarking on creating one for children as well,” Simmons said.

“It is not only a restaurant but also a center for educational outreach.”