IN THE same way the early bird catches the worm, quick-thinking cafe patrons will secure a seat.
As the states begin to adopt a three-stage plan for reopening the economy after the COVID-19 shutdown, Border foodies with a hankering to have their coffee in a ceramic cup and cafe fare on crockery can now see light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in weeks.
On Friday NSW restaurants, cafes and hotel dining rooms were allowed to serve 10 patrons at a time inside their venues for the first time since late March when COVID-19 public health orders temporarily closed them.
Albury university student Georgie Pickles was elated to finally enjoy a coffee inside her favourite eatery, Early Bird Cafe, yesterday morning.
She joined her friends, fellow Alburian Charters Harding and Jamie Lowe, of Culcairn, after noticing on Facebook that the Albury cafe would reopen.
"It feels so normal to see other people around you in the cafe; you're not necessarily interacting with them but it feels so good to see them," she said.
"I've already booked to bring my family back on Tuesday."
Having been a weekly regular at the Dean Street cafe in a pre-COVID-19 world, Ms Pickles, a Bachelor of Education student, said she had missed their barista-made coffee.
"My mum bought me a coffee machine but it's not really the same!" Ms Pickles said.
"It really is just so nice to see other people."
Early Bird Cafe owners Wendy and Dale Pope decided to reopen yesterday morning for their staff and loyal patrons.
Ms Pope, who is also the head chef, said their customers were really like family to them.
"It's not much but it's 10 seats; 10 seats is 10 seats," she said.
"We're lucky we've got the space so we can comply with the social-distancing guidelines."
Having offered takeaway in the week after COVID-19 public health orders shut cafes and restaurants, Ms Pope said it wasn't sustainable as their only service.
Highly-regarded for social media posts featuring her nutrient-dense comfort food, Ms Pope was happy to be back in the commercial kitchen.
"We're operating for restricted hours (8am-1pm, daily except Wednesday) and we'll see what happens," Ms Pope said.
"The weather looks good this weekend and we've taken a few bookings."
IN OTHER CORONAVIRUS NEWS:
Albury Spanish restaurant Saludos, which has been offering takeaway food since late March, reopened for table service on Friday.
Saludos head chef Jan Hancock said they had only a couple of tables for lunch but more dinner bookings last night.
"We booked our first 10 in and then a few more for the second sitting," she said.
"We have some bookings for next week and next weekend already but it might just take a little while for things to get back to some sort of new-normal."
Among other Albury cafes, Mr Benedict will offer set bookings from Saturday too.
South of the border, Victoria is yet to ease restrictions to allow cafes, restaurants and hotels to reopen.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed that hospitality businesses would be closed for at least the rest of this month.
However, he indicated that when these businesses were allowed to reopen they might be able to have more than 10 customers at any one time.
The Terrace Restaurant (All Saints Estate) head chef Simon Arkless said 10 covers might not be sustainable for many eateries and it also presented other challenges.
"It can be done but realistically you're going to have to set very strict booking times," he said.
"You'd need to fill your tables twice for lunch and dinner; there is no real allowance for people to be late, which makes it difficult.
"We're hoping in three weeks' time we might be able to have 20 diners."
Arkless said The Terrace's sister restaurant Thousand Pound Wine Bar recently began offering takeaway and wine for weekend pick-up.
He said The Terrace staff - who had been retained through the JobKeeper scheme - had been busy doing odd jobs around the restaurant and now with the Thousand Pound menu.
"We've been getting a lot of painting and odd jobs done," Arkless said.
"We have very high ceilings so for seven-and-a-half years, I've been saying, we've really got to get to that."
Meanwhile, cafe operators, restaurateurs and customers are adapting to a new trading environment amid a COVID-19 pandemic.
Slow and steady.
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