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After Tumultuous 2020, Central Illinois Wineries Hope To Barrel Back

Courtesy Kickapoo Creek Winery

Central Illinois wineries are hoping to bounce back from the pandemic after a difficult year.

Just like a lot of local restaurants and bars, local wineries are figuring out how to accommodate more customers as the weather gets warmer.

Laurie Bushell, general manager of Kickapoo Creek Winery in Edwards, said weather plays a key role in how more business is conducted.

"In the summer last year when it all started, we did do outdoor picnics because we have quite a bit of property," Bushell said. "And that really went over well. People loved being able to get out. It was beautiful grounds, food. It included a bottle of wine in lunch. So that's really nice -- but that's weather-dependant, too." 

Tres Rojas Winery in Washington opened for the first time this past December, amidst the pandemic. Owner Lisa Barry said, for them, there isn’t a time pre-pandemic to compare business to.

"We don't really have much of a frame of reference to what business would have been like prior to COVID," Barry said. "We got the opportunity to open up while it was all happening, and that allowed us to step into the pace that allowed us to kinda figure out our processes." 

She said their team is learning as they go,and think business will pick up as the region heads into the summer months.

"Especially as the weather's gotten warmer, we've been really busy. We extended our hours on Friday and Saturday to 8 o' clock at night," Barry said. "We think with summertime weather, it'll just be more reason for people to get out and enjoy themselves with family and friends." 

Illinois' wine industry generated nearly $3 billion in economic activity in 2019. But sales dropped by nearly 50 percent last year, as businesses were forced to scale back.

Bushell and Barry said they both appreciate all the support that the community has given them over the past year.

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Olivia Streeter is an intern at WCBU. The Illinois State University student joined WCBU in 2020.