By Luke Voogt
Geelong cafes and restaurants are preparing to reopen after state government this week announced venues could host up to 20 patrons from June 1.
King of the Castle owner Nick Watts was thrilled at the announcement after COVID-19 restrictions forced him to close his café just 10 days after opening.
“We’re excited to restart,” he told the Independent.
“Timing-wise it’s been pretty tough but what can you do?
“To have restrictions come in after 10 days was a bit harsh but it’s been a lot harder for some people.”
The former stockbroker-chef bought the café with his accountant wife Gemma after they migrated from London to Geelong with their two boys late last year.
“She’s learning how to be a barista, so I’ve been getting loads of coffees at home which is quite nice,” he said.
After reopening for takeaway on Monday, Mr Watts was seeing the positive side of the pandemic.
“Obviously, it’s not a good thing but it’s worked in our favour in terms of renovating the café,” he said.
“We had an amazing mural painted on the outside front wall, we only got it finished this week.”
While having 20 patrons onsite was “not ideal”, he looked forward to further easing of restrictions.
State government has foreshadowed increasing patron limits to 50 from June 22 and 100 in late July.
“I reckon we could probably get 100 in here,” Mr Watts said.
Just down Pakington Street, Oriental K owner Kibok Park says she has bookings already for June 1.
“One man rang me and said, ‘I want to support your restaurant’,” she said.
“He told me he wanted a booking as soon as the restaurant opened.”
The Korean-Japanese restaurant has been selling takeaway since restrictions came in and Ms Park is training her staff in additional COVID-19 hygiene measures for when the store reopens to diners on June 1.
She was also thinking about having temperature testing for customers before they enter, she said.
“If we open the restaurant, we’re still considering how to avoid COVID-19.”
While the restaurant had a capacity of 50, 20 would be the most customers they could host at once under current spacing requirements, she said.
Sakuratei Japanese Cuisine owner Flora Lam was also excited and cautiously optimistic about reopening .
“Of course it’s good for cafes and restaurants,” she said.
“But the COVID-19 pandemic is not fully over yet and we’re still worrying about the customers.
“Larger precautions and measures will be taken to ensure our customers’ safety.”
But while business has been tough for most, many drive-through coffee shops have bucked the trend, like Go Naked Coffee in Waurn Ponds.
Plenty of people were buying coffee at the drive-through, especially with the nearby Bunnings being “incredibly busy”, according to owner Mark Arnold.
“With a lot of people being laid off everyone’s been doing home improvement,” he said.
“But come June 1 I’ll be heading out to my favourite café. I really hope people get out about and support those that have been shut down.”