Open for Business: Adapting to pandemic changes, community cafe continues to serve Peoria

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – For 38 years, Garden Street Cafe has been serving its customers on Peoria’s South Side. 

“It’s been a long time running,” said Richard Burr, the owner of the restaurant.

Six days a week, you’ll find owner Burr cooking up breakfast and lunch favorites on the grill. Garden Street Cafe is part of Burr’s family legacy; his parents bought the restaurant in 1982. Five years later, they also bought the bar next door.

“I’ve been here most of my life, you know, so. I don’t know. I haven’t done anything else really other than this,” Burr said.

“I guess if you have to do something in life–you work for yourself–it’s a little bit more enjoyable and it makes you feel you know you’re proud of what you build up and what you’ve done in life.”

richard burr

Burr stated he’s seen his fair share of business bumps over the decades. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has looked much different for his restaurant and bar.

He said, “You went through times where it slowed and progressed and you just take the ups and downs as you go, you know, in any business.”

Statewide shutdown orders earlier this year forced Burr to implement new business strategies just to stay afloat. Garden Street Cafe now only offers walk-in and takeout orders.

Burr said, “It hurts because it—if you’re shut down, you’re not making any money, plus you still have all your liabilities. Those three months I was down the first time, I had SoCo, water and everything, cable. You couldn’t drop it. We just had to pay it.”

The work continues for Burr and his small staff. He cites having to cut some of his employees’ work hours, while also implementing additional sanitizing procedures. But the changes extend beyond just Garden Street Cafe. Burr said one of his major life plans has also been put on hold another year: retirement. But he’s seeing the good in it all.

“I enjoy what I do. So it was just that I was at the point where I was ready to slow down, but I don’t mind being here,” Burr said.

A steady flow of customers still supports regularly. Burr said he’s grateful and hoping to get back to normal.

“Places like these—they’ll never get rich but I’ll be rich in heart,” he said.

Garden Street Cafe is located at 1317 W. Garden St. in Peoria.

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