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COVID Forces Dozens Of Layoffs At Epiphany Farms Group

front of old Bloomington Fire Station that is now a restaurant
Epiphany Farms
The main dining room of Epiphany Farms restaurant will be used to assemble takeout meals and donated meals for laid-off restaurant workers.

Epiphany Farms Restaurant Group in Bloomington laid off more than 80 people Friday. Three of its four restaurants are effectively closed.

Co-owner Ken Myszka said takeout will continue from Anju Above, with some menu items from the flagship restaurant Epiphany Farms in downtown Bloomington. Bakery and Pickle in Bloomington closed earlier this year. The Old Bank Inn in LeRoy closed early in the year, reopened and served outdoors and takeout through the summer, but has closed again at least until next spring.

Myszka said employment has seesawed during the pandemic, with 230 people before the virus hit, down to 40, back up to 120 until recently, and now again below 40.

"When the dining ban happened, it really kicked our feet out from under us," said Myszka.

He said he hopes people will buy takeout and then purchase a second meal the restaurant will donate to unemployed restaurant workers.

"If you look at 130 people affected just from our establishments, and the other 20 or 30 restaurants in downtown Bloomington, there's thousands of people that need help," said Myszka, who hopes to work with community groups to pay for some of the relief meals for displaced workers.

Myszka said there is plenty of food because Epiphany made decisions on what to grow before the pandemic began.

"Our freezers are chock-full. We produced 5,500 chickens. We have over 100 hogs at the farm. We have 10,000 pounds of vegetables. And it's all perishable," said Myszka.

He said the main dining room of Epiphany Farms restaurant will be used to assemble the to-go meals, adding the group also will change marketing strategies and abandon social media in favor of direct contact with customers through email and its website.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.