For the last 31 years, the Red Herring vegeterian restaurant in Urbana has been a quiet little spot that some people did not even know existed. Located in the heart of campus, it has catered to multiple generations of vegetarian and vegan patrons and has also acted as a stepping stone for many local musicians.
The Red Herring used to host an open mic performance every Thursday night, where anybody willing enough to share their music could come and play. Over the last few years though, the Herring has encountered a few financial problems, causing it to worry less about its musical endeavors and more about fighting to stay open.
Now, the Red Herring is under new management and recently saw its first profitable year in its history. With some extra money and a new business plan under their belt, they began serving dinner meals and plan to bring back local music as a recurring theme at the restaurant. Although the Red Herring still cannot afford to pay the musicians in anything other than a free meal, kitchen manager Lisa Vironda agrees that local music is a very important aspect of the survival of the restaurant.
“It’s all about the Red Herring and local music benefiting each other mutually,” Vironda said.“People who aren’t vegetarian will come to see a band and realize that vegetarian food does actually taste good and then they will order something.”
Chad Knowles, another kitchen manager, assessed that there had been a rise in business due to the addition of local music.
“Having a couple of different bands play on certain nights brings in totally new crowds. Bands will bring in people, dinners will bring in people, and both will get to see something new,” Knowles said.
The inclusion of local music isn’t just important for the venue, though — the musicians themselves are benefiting too.
“It is incredibly important for local artists to go to a place that is already established and put there music on display,” Knowles explained. “Even if it is a first step or they are already an established musician, The Red Herring is a great place for them to showcase their art.”
Local musician Isaac Gadient, who has previously performed and volunteered at the Red Herring always looks forward to whenever he gets an opportunity to play the venue.
“Everyone at the Herring is very gracious and very appreciative,” said Gadient. “It is really fun because it is so low key and relaxing. Even people who have just started playing can get an encouraging audience there that is generally excited to see them play.”
Knowles and Vironda hope that their upcoming focus on local music will bring in a whole new crowd of customers as well as new musicians looking for a free and welcoming venue to play at.
“I really wish that the Red Herring becomes more popular than it is now. It is such a great untapped resource for amazing food and music,” Gadient said. “Performing there is kind of like eating there — both are fantastic.”

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