CHAMPAIGN — The Daily Bread Soup Kitchen is looking for a new location, but its leaders' plans are "nebulous" and a move would not be until years down the road.
The soup kitchen, which currently operates out of the New Covenant Fellowship church at 124 W. White St., is still hoping the city council signs off on a change to Champaign's zoning rules that would allow Daily Bread to open in a standalone location at any property where a restaurant would be allowed.
But Daily Bread board president Bob Goss said there's a good chance that will be somewhere other than North First Street, a possibility that caused a lot of hand-wringing as the city council considered the zoning change last week.
"I think some people may be concerned," Goss said. "We probably won't even land where the current people think we're going."
Speculation about a move to the 100 block of North First Street drove the area's business owners to last week's city council meeting to oppose the change that would allow the soup kitchen to move to their area. Goss said the soup kitchen had scouted a spot at the former location of Emerald City Lounge, but it is looking at a few other locations, too.
"There are a couple locations that look really good, and they're not on First Street," Goss said.
Keith Cameron Smith, who is part owner of the building that used to house Emerald City and the owner of Cameron's Catering which operates out of that building, said on Monday that a sale to the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen is not being considered and he continues to run his catering business.
Goss said Daily Bread leaders had indicated they were looking at the building, and although it was only cursory interest, the news spread to the rest of the neighborhood.
"It went out like brushfire," Goss said.
That spread concerns about crime and the appearance of North First Street and drew the block's businesspeople to last week's city council meeting. They were worried having a soup kitchen in the neighborhood would harm their businesses.
Ellen McDowell, the "emeritus" head of the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, said she understands the concern, even if she does not necessarily agree with it.
"We have met with people from First Street, and we are very sympathetic to that point of view," McDowell said. "We understand their concern, even though we feel it's very stereotypical. But we understand. They have worked very hard for what they have."
Right now, the soup kitchen isn't going anywhere, Goss said. And it will be a "minimum of two years" before they do.
And although a change to the zoning rules has already received preliminary support from the city council, McDowell said it still needs to finalize its approval before the soup kitchen can do anything.
"Otherwise we can't purchase anything to move anywhere," McDowell said.