PEORIA — With extreme cold sweeping through central Illinois, area businesses reacted in different ways with fewer customers venturing out.
While bistros like the Hofbrau and Cracked Pepper were closed on Wednesday, others scaled back. Some places looked for expanded delivery service, anticipating that when temperatures hover around 20 below, a lot of folks might choose to stay home.
But Pat Sullivan, owner of Kelleher's Irish Pub & Eatery, 619 SW Water St., wasn't going to let a little thing like cold temperatures slow him down.
"We were open. I made sure our employees got here. I went and got a couple of them. We were busy for lunch. We had a full restaurant, and we're looking forward to a decent crowd tonight," he said on Wednesday afternoon.
"I just remember when I was a paper boy, you had to deliver every day — including on winter days. You had to dress warmly and be safe, but that was your job," recalled Sullivan, reflecting on delivering newspapers in the East Bluff.
Stefan Zeller, in charge of operations at the five Avanti's restaurants in the area, decided to only offer delivery service from the Main Street store while still providing carryout service at the other locations in Peoria, East Peoria and Pekin.
"The dining rooms will be open, but there won't be any service. People will be able to bring their carryout items in if they want," he said.
"We know we won't make money in this weather, but we want to make sure we're there for first responders like fire and police. That's something my dad impressed upon me," he said, referring to his father, Albert Zeller, who started Avanti's in 1966.
At Marco's Pizza, 708 W. Glen Ave., Renee Lee, the assistant manager, said delivery staff would call ahead to customers just prior to arrival. "We want our drivers to be safe and not be standing out in the cold," she said.
Typically, delivery makes up more than half of the business, said Lee.
Cindy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Shoppes at Grand Prairie, said the decision on whether to be open or closed Wednesday was left to individual stores. "We advise people to call first to make sure the store they want is open," she said.
Area restaurant owner Phil Caplis, whose holdings include the Golden Corral franchise in Peoria, the Two25 restaurant at the Mark Twain Hotel Downtown and Geo's Pizza in Metamora, was also making plans to deal with the cold weather.
"We're not going to shut down, but with an older crowd that comes to both restaurants, we'll just need a skeleton crew on hand. On the flip side, the delivery business at Geo's will probably be busier than normal," he said.
It's an hour's drive from Peoria, but the Highlands Fine Food & Whiskey House in downtown Bradford, owned by Patty and Dana McGurdy, will maintain regular 4-9 p.m. hours both Wednesday and Thursday. The nightly specials will include soups and manicotti, said Patty McGurdy, who serves as the restaurant's chef. "They sounded warm to me," she said.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.