Coffee on a budget at pop-up cafe

They may be working 17-hour shifts, but the three Wollongong university students behind Three Squatters Pop-Up Cafe and Bar aren’t looking the slightest bit tired.

Friends since year 11, Nick Underhill, Tiffany Blackmore and David Columbro are using their summer break from studies to operate the cafe from the former Yours and Owls site.

‘‘The coffee helps,’’ laughs Blackmore when asked how she gets through the hours.

The cafe has transformed the former live music site into a cosy inner-city nook for students and friends.

The deliberately mismatched furniture creates a laid-back feel. There are lop-sided mirrors, timber stools, wooden crates and even a white, wrought-iron garden setting.

Along with homemade biscuits, muffins and slices at the counter, the place is filled with artwork, woodworks, relishes and jewellery, showcasing the talents of the trio’s friends from university.

‘‘You can only squat for so long’’ is written on the blackboard at the counter, alongside the ‘‘Squatters Countdown’’ written above a lop-sided mirror, marking  the number of days the bar will remain open.

Three Squatters opened on February 1 and will close on February 28, when the trio prepare for their return to university.

The three friends had just three weeks to set up the cafe, which now operates from 7am till midnight on weekdays and from 9am till midnight on weekends.

They leased the venue after Yours and Owls moved out and Underhill says having a leftover coffee machine, equipment and cutlery made the set-up much easier, especially as there were approvals such as a liquor licence to be finalised.

‘‘In terms of opening a cafe there’s so much to do,’’ Underhill says.

All three have had experience in hospitality at certain stages and are now studying various degrees. Underhill is completing his honours in international communications and media studies, Blackmore is studying a combined degree in law and arts, and Columbro, who is studying accounting and international business, has taken a month’s leave from his  job to help with the cafe.

After finishing her shift, Blackmore then goes home to prepare relish and craft jewellery pieces.

Underhill says social media has helped get word out about the cafe and it has been busy.

‘‘We wanted it to be a really relaxed place to hang out,’’ he says, adding that the prices have been kept low to fit in with university students’ budgets.

‘‘We’re kind of spending our time there anyway so we’re enjoying it just as much as everyone else is.’’

Drawing towards its final day, Three Squatters is holding a gourmet burger night on February 26, hosted by Little Prince chef Jimmy Callaway.

Blackmore says that along with having live acoustic music on Sundays, the group have set up quirky events at the cafe, including an anti-Valentine’s Day, which included pinatas for those keen to show their distaste for the day.

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