Vele is opening its new location on the west side of Springfield on Wednesday, Nov. 4 as planned, despite additional mitigation orders from Governor JB Pritzker prohibiting indoor dining. The owners joined a group of nearly two dozen other restaurant owners filing suit in Sangamon County last week seeking relief from the order, which Mayor Jim Langfelder has said he will not enforce for at least the next two weeks.
Sept. 26 was the last day of operations at 524 E. Monroe for Vele, a restaurant with a modern coastal Italian menu and trendy vibe that opened in downtown Springfield in November 2017. It served as the anchor tenant for the Ferguson-Booth building project that initially began in 2012. However, with the first developer unable to complete the project and the property now in the hands of a New York-based bank, the owners of Vele say there were too many unknowns to continue to operate in that space.
“As beautiful as that historic building is – and it’s such a great vibe for our space – it’s really been a thorn in our side due to upkeep,” said Nickey Sperry, who owns VELE along with her husband, Dan, and Justin Richardson, who also serves as executive chef. “We’ve had a lot of broken promises in regards to what’s going to happen with this building,” she told SBJ in an interview last month.
Sperry said even if the current owners find a way to move forward with the project, it didn’t necessarily bode well for Vele. “If they did complete the three buildings, how would they accommodate our restaurant with the scaffolding?” she asked, noting that the upper stories need extensive work. “We have a lot of concerns regarding the situation. It would be a shame to stay in that space and suffocate ourselves.”
Sperry said the decision to leave downtown was not an easy one, and the three partners agonized for months. “We are 100% for the revitalization of downtown; always have been, always will be.”
However, with American Harvest Eatery recently vacating its space at 3241 W. Iles Ave., Sperry said the group saw an opportunity to both improve and expand their space. At just over 6,000 square feet, the space will be significantly larger than the downtown location, and Sperry said she is not concerned about the proximity to Curate, their other restaurant located in The Gables, citing unique menu items to each location.
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