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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Canberra cafes and restaurants reopen to reduced numbers

From last Saturday 16 May, some of Canberra’s cafes, restaurants and other eateries opened their doors to welcome customers for the first time since March.

With a 10-patron limit in place, many eateries decided to remain takeaway only, given opening up for so few seated customers is financially unviable for most.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr acknowledged as much when he announced the easing of restrictions on 12 May.

“The vast majority of the hospitality industry will remain takeaway only for now,” he said.

Fyshwick café and grocer, As Nature Intended, is among those businesses that recommenced receiving diners over the weekend.

Owner, Beata Wilder, told Canberra Weekly that given they operate as both a cafe and grocer, she had to seat her dine-in customers in their outdoor area around a fire pit so shoppers could still buy their groceries indoors.

“We had quite a lot of customers sitting outside quite happily, it was a beautiful day …  so we don’t know how that’s going to work in the future,” she said.

“People have had enough of sitting at home, and just even to go out it’s a pleasure.”

Ms Wilder said an increase in the limit of patrons up to 20, as would be the case when the ACT moves into stage 2 of the federal government’s COVIDSafe plan, wouldn’t make a big difference to how she does business.

“I don’t think it would make a lot of changes … It’s probably not enough to pay for everything at a coffee shop.

“At the moment, we are doing the little steps forward, and if something else happens like a second wave … then that would probably end us all,” she said.

Ms Wilder remains uncertain about how the dine-in patron limits are to be enforced moving forward.

“How are you going to restrict those 10 or 20 to come in? Do they book, do they stay an hour … we’ve never had to say ‘time’s up’.”

Ms Wilder said many local hospitality business owners have decided to stay shut due to reopening not being worth it.

“A lot of my friends with restaurants decided not to open because they can’t follow the restrictions … They feel like it’s not worth it for them to open,” she said.

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