Geneva restaurant on legal fight against dining ban: 'We want to do it the right way'

  • FoxFire co-owner K.C. Gulbro speaks to the Daily Herald about how and why the restaurant is staying open for indoor dining.

      FoxFire co-owner K.C. Gulbro speaks to the Daily Herald about how and why the restaurant is staying open for indoor dining. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • FoxFire Restaurant in Geneva won approval Monday in court to offer indoor dining as it pursues a lawsuit against the state over the governor's executive order.

      FoxFire Restaurant in Geneva won approval Monday in court to offer indoor dining as it pursues a lawsuit against the state over the governor's executive order. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Lois Perry of Naperville, who was out to lunch Tuesday at FoxFire in Geneva, talks about how important it is to support local businesses and interact with others, while being safe.

      Lois Perry of Naperville, who was out to lunch Tuesday at FoxFire in Geneva, talks about how important it is to support local businesses and interact with others, while being safe. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • FoxFire, a Geneva restaurant, is following COVID-19 containment measures, including requiring mask-wearing and limiting capacity.

      FoxFire, a Geneva restaurant, is following COVID-19 containment measures, including requiring mask-wearing and limiting capacity. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Nosh, a Geneva restaurant, offered indoor dining Tuesday. It thanked fellow Geneva restaurant FoxFire on Instagram and Facebook for filing a lawsuit challenging the governor's ban on indoor dining.

      Nosh, a Geneva restaurant, offered indoor dining Tuesday. It thanked fellow Geneva restaurant FoxFire on Instagram and Facebook for filing a lawsuit challenging the governor's ban on indoor dining. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/27/2020 6:04 PM

The day after a judge allowed FoxFire Restaurant in Geneva to offer indoor dining while fighting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's recent ban, several other eateries in the city's downtown were serving customers indoors.

One of them, Nosh, took to social media to thank FoxFire for its legal efforts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And FoxFire's co-owner and chef, K.C. Gulbro, was busy taking calls from other restaurants interested in joining his lawsuit against the governor, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Kane County Public Health Department.

That wasn't the case last Tuesday, when Gulbro and his father Carl, the other owner, started thinking about what to do. The restaurant's regular attorney discouraged them from filing suit, Gulbro said.

But when he went to a Bible study on Thursday, Gulbro met a man who said his son would take the case. That lawyer filed the case Friday afternoon.

"We wanted to be legal. We do not like breaking laws," Gulbro said. "We want to do it the right way, and that is why we did a lawsuit."

Some restaurants in Kane and DuPage counties, where the ban started Friday, simply announced they would keep indoor dining open. The Buttermilk restaurants in Geneva and Naperville are booking diners in groups of 25 as private events with multiple events throughout the day.

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Normally, FoxFire can seat up to 196 people at 40 booths and tables. But Gulbro removed 16 tables and is limiting capacity to 50 people.

During the spring shutdown, FoxFire lost about 80% of its business, Gulbro said. Several weeks ago it closed for a week while awaiting COVID-19 test results for several employees who had been exposed elsewhere. That cost about $35,000 in business, he said.

"I think we showed we are responsible enough," Gulbro said.

Patron Lisa Perry of Naperville appreciated having a spot to enjoy lunch indoors with a friend. She said it appeared the restaurant was being careful and using precautions.

"It lifts your spirits to be able to get out and be with friends," Perry said.

Other Geneva restaurants offering indoor dining Tuesday included Stockholm's Pub, Geneva Diner, Olde Towne Pub and Cotto e Legna. Meanwhile, several downtown Geneva shoppers were looking for places to eat.

Mimi Damasco of Wood Dale and Kathy Pesce of Bartlett sat in an unheated three-sided tent, eating hot sandwiches from Graham's 318 coffeehouse. Graham's kept its inside dining closed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We kept walking around until we found this," Pesce said. "We're trying to make the best of it."

Damasco said everything should be open. That's even with her being high-risk due to having asthma, she said.

Lisa Ziccardi of Crystal Lake met Honey Lynn from Naperville for shopping and lunch.

"We love to eat here (Geneva), but we're not eating outdoors," Ziccardi said. "I absolutely will support any restaurant that goes against the mandate. And I'm not giving business to businesses that kowtow to Pritzker."

Lynn spoke about the impact of closures on the hospitality industry. "The winter is coming," she said. "What are these places going to do?"

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