Cafes adjust to new reality

Kat’s Whiskers owner Clara Packard (middle) with happy customers Celia King and Kate Mobberley.

Local cafe owners won’t be left wondering as they try their best to keep afloat amid the Federal and State Government’s decision to ban inside group gatherings in response to the Covid-19 situation.

Despite not being able to run table service, local cafes will still offer takeaway coffee and meals, in attempt to keep their heads above water and still offer an essential service to the community.

Clara Packard, owner of Kat’s Whiskers café, had originally decided to close her business upon hearing the government’s announcement, even telling her staff that they would be closed for the foreseeable future.

Then after Scott Morrison’s announcement on Sunday evening, which allowed for cafes to continue with takeaway service, Ms Packard instead decided to adjust to the changes and continue to stay open in a reduced state.

“Last night I announced we were closed after Gladys (Berejiklian) announced the closure of non-essential businesses but then Scomo (Scott Morrison) comes out and said we are all good, so I decided to keep up takeaway service,” Packard said.

“The safety of our customers and staff come first, so I thought we would do Kats Nook, which basically just offers customers takeaway coffee and a reduced menu.

“It’s different but it definitely helps will social distancing and it still allows customers that chance to get out of the house, interact with people and get their coffee.”

Ms Packard said that the decision to remain open had been a popular one amongst her customer base.

“Everyone loves it and they have been saying they are happy we are still here,” Packard said. “Tumut needs this right now; morale has been so low and everyone is stressing, not knowing if they have a job, and at least by having this little takeaway, people can get their coffee and see their friends and just have that resemblance of a routine.”

Despite remaining open, Ms Packard wasn’t oblivious to the challenges ahead, admitting her staff would be facing reduced income.

“We have five staff but we are facing reduced hours, reduced turnover and we will be selling less food due to the reduced menu,” Packard said.

“We won’t have the same hours to offer for staff but at least we are open for the moment and we can still offer some work.”

Ms Packard is still preparing for a full closure but is happy to take some business while she can.

“I am preparing to close and I think they are waiting to get closer to the school holidays before they close everything down,” Packard said.

“It is just changing all the time and no one can really guess when things will happen next, but for the moment, we are still open for business.

Another café staying open is Tumut’s Pie in the Sky Bakery, which will still offer a full menu during reduced operating hours.

Owner Jane Dean said that she was expecting to notice the difference in sales very quickly, suggesting they would lose those clients who preferred to dine in.

“Today (Monday) hasn’t been all that bad but we aren’t going to get the people who want to sit their and have a coffee and those elderly people who enjoy our seating area each morning,” Mr Dean said.

She believes it is only a matter of time until all cafes are closed but admitted she didn’t know when the government would make that decision.

“It’s changing daily and I think it’s a matter of time until they close us all down,” Dean said. “I just don’t know how long we have until that happens but at the moment, it’s business at usual and the only real difference is that we will close at around 3pm each day.”

Tumut’s Pie in the Sky has been a yearly sponsor of a variety of sports teams in the region and Mrs Dean hopes this means that those clubs and individuals will now show their support for her business.

“We have been here for 10 years in July and we have done sponsorship for the whole 10 years, whether it be the Bulls or the Blues or whoever else,” Dean said.

“We hope people remember those sponsorships and get behind us during this difficult time.”

Another Tumut cafe that is calling on local support is Wayne Skein’s Harvest by the River.

“We really need that support, without business, we will probably have to knock three quarters of our staff,” Skein said.

“We are not going to need staff for taking meals out, collecting dishes and without that continued business, I will probably go from four or five staff to just the two staff members.”

Mr Skein believes having Harvest by the River right next to Tumut River offers café goers a unique experience, especially when you consider seating areas are now off limits.

“I think it’s important we are still open; people can come get a coffee and go sit by the river and relax,” he said.

The café owner, who was also impacted by the Dunns Road bushfires earlier this year, is concerned how the region will recover, especially after the devastation of the fires on all local businesses. 

“It’s just another blow to everyone and there is not too much we can do but it will be really hard for everyone to bounce back and open their doors again if it gets any worse,” he said.

 The Coffee Pedaler, will also remain open for takeaway service.

The popular coffee shop will be open during their regular hours and a decision on their menu and whether a reduced one will be adopted, will be announced on their Facebook page tomorrow.

Unfortunately, not all cafes will remain open with the Tumut Terrace Café and Two Tarts Tumut closing their doors for the time being.

In a Facebook post on Monday, the Tumut Terrace Café thanked community for its recent support but explained they couldn’t keep going after the Government’s decision. They’ll resume once the restrictions are lifted.