CHAMPAIGN – The largest bars in Champaign’s Campustown area will be closed on Friday and Saturday, July 10-11, in an attempt to avoid spreading the coronavirus during Greek Reunion. In fact, local officials say the more people stay away from Greek Reunion this year, the better.
Greek Reunion brings students back to the University of Illinois campus every July. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Danita Brown Young says the event started years ago as a time for fraternity and sorority members to return to campus for cleanup and preparation for the fall semester. She says Greek Reunion also sends crowds of students out to party at bars and private gatherings, although well below the volumes seen as Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day in the spring.
Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen says any crowds would be too risky this year. She’s glad that the owners of KAMS and its adjacent bar, Second Chance, along with the Red Lion, Joe’s Brewery and Brothers (which was added to the list on Friday), are voluntarily closing for the weekend.
“So they will not be open for this weekend,” said Feinen, “in an attempt to try to help us make the students understand that this is not a safe activity for a large gathering to come and go out to the bars.”
As city liquor commissioner, Feinen issued an emergency order just before the July Fourth weekend, placing strict limits on bars in the Campustown area. Patrons must wear face masks and practice social distancing, in keeping with the Phase Four guidelines under the state’s Restore Illinois Plan. Patrons face possible fines for violations. And while Campustown bars usually allow 19 and 20-year-old guests, no one under 21 will be allowed in the bars after 9 P.M.
Even stricter limits have been posted for the five large-capacity bars. KAMS, Second Chance, the Red Lion, Joe’s Brewery and Brothers all have indoor-outdoor standing capacities of 200 or more. But under the emergency order, these bars can host no more than 25 percent of their standing capacity. If caught in violation, the bars could be forced into emergency closure, and face fines, suspensions and revocation of their liquor licenses.
Meanwhile, Vice Chancellor Brown Young is asking students currently on campus to avoid all Greek Reunion gatherings, whether in bars or at private parties. And she’s asking anyone living out of town who’s thinking of traveling to Champaign-Urbana for Greek Reunion to stay away.
Brown Young says COVID-19 infection rates have been relatively low in Champaign-Urbana. and she wants to keep them that way.
“So, if we can slow down or stop the spread from occurring, but not having or promoting these large gatherings, than that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” said Brown Young.
The Vice Chancellor made her request in an email to University of Illinois students that urged them to set a good example by staying away from Greek Reunion this year.
“We know that the eyes of the campus and the local community will be focused on the actions of our students,” Brown Young wrote. “You have the opportunity to model the way we conduct and host events to ensure that we are not viewed as the problem or cause of any potential outbreak.”
CORRECTION: This story was updated to add Brothers to the list of bars that are closing voluntarily for Greek Reunion weekend, and to clarify details of the mayor’s emergency order. Also, a version of this story airing on WILL AM & FM Thursday evening, July 9, incorrectly named one of the bars as Chances R. The correct name is Second Chance. – JM 7/10/20