Area restaurant owners have a court date for operating without a health permit

Restaurants to have day in court "Not till I get a court order," is what restaurateur Jeff Buckler told The News-Gazette on Friday, December 18, the day after his establishment, Lil Buford's in Tolono had its health permit pulled and was asked to close. "Wars aren’t won in one fight." Now he is a little more than three weeks of finding out if he picked the wrong battle.

This morning, the Champaign-Urbana newspaper reported that Buckler, and Charles Buck, owner of Billy Bob’s Under the Water Tower in Ogden, are formally charged with operating a restaurant without a valid health permit.

Billy Bob's permit was suspended on December 11. Both restaurant owners have continued to operate providing dining services without county permits.

Despite Champaign County having the third lowest positivity level among the 102 Illinois counties, under Illinois' multi-tier resurgence mitigation plan indoor service at bars and restaurants is prohibited. However, outdoor service and carry-out and delivery sales are still allowed at establishments that possess all the requisite permits by state, county and local governments.

Buckler also owns Buford's in Sadorus which currently offers carryout and outdoor service only after he ceased indoor dining earlier this month. Even in the face of fines, attorney fees and possible court order closure, Lil Buford's, which opened in October, continues to offer dine-in service today.

Fighting tooth and nail for the survival of his business, Buckler's resistance effort made the national news on Sunday. He told FoxNews "there are thousands of servers and cooks and bartenders are out of work" and that "People are starving. It's going to get bad here soon."

The two owners and their attorneys are scheduled to be in court January 21.

Several other Champaign County bar and restaurant establishments that have ignored the state's public health mandate have entered settlement agreements with the health department's enforcement after appearances in court or prior docketed dates. Merry-Ann’s Diner in Champaign, the American Legion Post 71, Apple Dumplin’ at 2014 N. High Cross Road, U; Not Too Far Bar at 203 Chapin St., Ivesdale; and Red Wheel Restaurant at 741 Broadmeadow, Rantoul, all were cited for continuing indoor dining.

The Apple Dumpling was permanently restricted from operating without a valid health permit in a decision by Judge Benjamin Dyer. In a settlement agreement by owners Jim and Kathryn Flaningam and county health officials, a permanent injunction order approved a little more than a week ago included provisions that the restaurant owners must comply with all applicable laws, including any notice of requirements issued by the Champaign County Public Health Department.

The Red Wheel's suspension barely lasted 24 hours and was reinstated after a written correction was accepted by the CUPHD and a reinstatement fee was paid. In a settlement agreement with City of Champaign and the county, Merry-Ann’s agreed to quit offering indoor dining services to the public.