With COVID-19 lockdown in the ACT finally loosening its grip, many local businesses opened their doors on Friday, 15 October, and dusted off their equipment for the first time since 12 August, 2021.
Cafes, bars, barbers and gyms are among the businesses allowed to recommence operations under current guidelines, with more substantial changes coming on 29 October, when the ACT reaches the next leg of the roadmap out of COVID-19.
Businesses that are now open are running at the allowed capacities.
Men’s barbershop Truefitt & Hill, in Civic, is booked out until early November, with men seeking to regain control of hair growth that has either not been touched in months, or has been touched by someone who didn’t really know what they were doing.
“There’s a good pile of hair we’re picking up off the floor,” says Truefitt & Hill managing director Khushwant Dhanoa.
“As you can imagine, it has been like trying to ride a bicycle again for some of the staff. You know what you need to do, but it’s just about getting into the flow of things again.”
But Khushwant says that despite the nerves, everybody is happy to be back at work.
They are only allowed five customers in the shop at any one time, but he says this has been easy enough to regulate seeing as their service is via booking only.
“Clients come in at the appointed time for their service, minimising customers having to wait around in queues or being asked to come back later,” he says.
Meanwhile, members of the Club Lime and hiit republic gyms have moved their coffee tables out of the way for the last time.
“It’s safe to say that most of the members are very sick of training in their living rooms and trying to stay motivated,” says hiit republic general manager Matt Eikenhout.
“All of our gyms are full to capacity, with bookings across today [Friday, 15 October] and throughout the weekend.”
At this stage, gyms are still unable to offer or run classes, which Matt says is “a bit of a difficult one in the interim”.
Opening hours are also capped, ruling out their usual 24/7 arrangement and prompting a reshuffle of staffing. Only 25 people are allowed in a facility at any one time, or one person per four square metres, whichever is less.
“It’s pretty difficult juggling all of that, but we’re just super excited we can actually open,” says Matt.
During the lockdown, he says Club Lime and hiit republic’s training gyms, and the Ground Up yoga and Pilates studio, were hosting group fitness classes online, which members could do in their living room without requiring any equipment.
“We were having 100-plus people taking part in these via our social media channels,” says Matt.
He says staff are equally excited to be back.
“All the staff members are pretty extroverted personalities – they want to be out there and with people on a daily basis,” says Matt. “It’s honestly so great to see how happy they are to be able to return to work, first and foremost, and then to see how happy the members are.”
Restaurant dining remains off the menu for now, but cafes and bars are making light meals and mixing drinks again.
Canberra Southern Cross Club’s general manager of operations, Huw Bennett, says they’re not taking bookings at the moment, but are encouraging people to ring ahead.
“We’re just opening the cafes and people can come in and get a coffee or light meal,” he says. “We’re at capacity at the moment at each of the venues, but we didn’t have the rush of people at 9 am that we thought we may have.”