Wollongong's cafes, restaurants and small bars are fighting for survival this weekend, as they grapple with restrictive new COVID-19 rules that will force more of them to close.
After a week of adapting - adding takeaway and delivery services, changing their venue layouts and menus - due to reduced customers and extra restrictions as the virus crisis continues, the hospitality industry was hit with a new set of rules on Friday afternoon.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced all non-essential activities in venues including cafes, restaurants, clubs and pubs would be subject to a new restriction of one person per four square metres.
"If you've got a room... that's 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room," he said.
The earlier rule banning non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more people remains in place. Likewise, people should still be trying to keep 1.5 metres away from people at all times, and avoiding handshakes or physical contact with people outside their family.
For many of the Illawarra's smaller venues, they will be allowed far fewer people under Friday's new rule, making it difficult to turn a profit or be able to afford to pay staff.
Already, Opus Coffee Brewers - on Keira Street and Kembla Street - closed its doors this week, saying it was impossible to practise social distancing in small cafes.
On Friday, local bar operators Good Times Only quickly calculated their new patron limits for Dagwood, The Little Prince and Births and Deaths bars, and posted them to social media to alert patrons.
Dagwood would have a capacity of 30 people, Little Prince would be limited to 58 and Births and Deaths could fit just 20 patrons, they said.
"We are open, just, until advised otherwise," they said. "We do what we need to to curb this virus and flatten the curve."
They have also set up an online merchandise shop to help make ends meet, and to give people who would like to support local businesses without going into venues.
Ideas to support hospitality while social distancing
- Consider eating early or late at a time when not many people would usually be out, at a restaurant which is practicing correct distancing and extra hygiene measures
- Call ahead to see if there will be enough space to visit your chosen restaurant
- Go out for a quick drink with your partner or family member at a time when you might not normally do so, to avoid crowds.
- Order a restaurant meal at home from somewhere you've never tried before
- Spread you spend around different local businesses
- Order direct from the restaurant where possible to cut out their fees from third-party services at this tough time
- Buy wine and beer from local bottle shops (not ones owned by the big supermarkets, which are doing well), or from places like Wollongong's new cellar door The Wine Hub, on Victoria Street
- Treat yourself to a takeaway coffee and a bunch of flowers from a local florist
- Buy a bag of coffee beans, or some other available merchandise to take home
- Order baked goods from a local bakery instead of the supermarket
At Babyface Kitchen, run by Andy Burns and Gen Digregorio, they were "open and still cooking" on Friday night.
"We're making appropriate adjustments to our space daily according to the information provided by the government," the couple wrote on Facebook.
"We're lucky to have a large space for our capacity.
"Hospo needs your support now, or a lot of your fave spots won't be here when this is all over."
His Boy Elroy owner Lachlan Stevens, who quickly attempted to adapt to last week's new rules by starting a new delivery service for his burger bar, has called on the government to offer more help to small businesses.
On Facebook, he put a call out to Wollongong MP Paul Scully, asking him to contact Premier Gladys Berejiklian to help small bars "beat this virus economically and socially".
"New York have recently announced new rules whereby restaurants and bars can now sell wine and liquor for takeout or delivery.
"A decision which now provides economic stability to thousands of small business in NYC. There is money to be made for small business in this home delivery service...
"It goes without saying what the impacts of this decision has on the hospitality industry and the people who rely on it to meet basic needs. I'm calling you to drive your constituents request forward as a matter of urgency."
Mr Scully visited the burger bar on Saturday to speak to Mr Stevens about his ideas.
"His Boy Elroy and every other small business owner I've spoken to, I want to congratulate them and thank them for how they have all been focused on keeping the door to their business open, and keeping their staff on for as long as possible," Mr Scully said.
"That attitude has been fantastic, and has been consistent across all Wollongong businesses.
"We need to look at and government needs to be open to looking at any regulation and reasonable requests for regulatory relaxation. There's got to be some give and take."
"A lot of small businesses are looking to larger online platforms to assist them at this time, and I would hoe that those businesses take the same approach to give and take and work with small businesses and consider how much they are charging to be involved in their platforms."
Veteran Lower Crown Street cafe Lee and Me is also still open, and is seating most of their Saturday morning customers outside.
Likewise, suburban cafes like Mangerton's Brown Sugar Espresso and Unanderra's Steam Heads are serving customers, who are waiting outside for their coffee to be made. Goodies in West Wollongong has reduced its indoor seating and asked patrons to pay with card wherever possible.
Pizza places, including Il Nido in Balgownie and Da Orlando in south Wollongong, have amped up their delivery service, with the latter extending their delivery area to more out Wollongong suburbs.
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