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Business plummets at cafes and coffee shops as customers stay away over coronavirus

Restaurants and cafes are among the first businesses to feel the pinch of the coronavirus scare, as customers choose to stay at home.

Adrian Rroga, who runs Cafe Beck in Mill Street, Maidstone, said: "It's bad. Business was down maybe 40% last week and its very quiet again now.

Adrian Rroga of Cafe Beck
Adrian Rroga of Cafe Beck

"A lot of our customers are office workers and I think many have been told to work from home."

He said he would consider closing if the situation got much worse, saying "At least we would save the energy bills."

He said: "It's very disappointing - we pride ourselves on our hygiene here, but you can't force customers to come in."

It was a similar story at the Moonlight Cafe in Middle Row. Owner Bill Gulbahce said: "I've cancelled our deliveries for tomorrow because we have not used our existing stock.

"Business is down 40 to 50%. We might take the decision to close if things don't pick up."

Moonlight Cafe (31705815)
Moonlight Cafe (31705815)

There was only one customer in The Lunch Basket when we visited, but the owner was optimistic. He said: "Mondays can be quiet anyway. Hopefully it will pick up later."

He was proposing to stay open. He said: "It's very easy to close a business. It's not so easy to get it started again."

The scare has come as a huge blow to young couple George Spencer and Sandra Lemke, who only opened their new Matestones coffee shop in the High Street last week.

The project has been months in the planning - they even constructed their own furniture for the cafe and spent a long time finding local suppliers for all their lines.

Mr Spencer said: "We had a good response in our first week, so we are still optimistic."

The couple both work at the cafe and are open seven days a week.

George Spencer and Sandra lemke of Matesones Coffee Bar with their hand-made furniture
George Spencer and Sandra lemke of Matesones Coffee Bar with their hand-made furniture

He said: "It's hard, especially as we stay on an hour and half after we close every night to clean thoroughly. But we are still excited to be running our own business."

Rosalind Perriman is the supervisor at the Royal Star Cafe in Maidstone.

She said: "We are really struggling. A lot of our customers are elderly and they seem to be staying away. It's difficult to know how we can carry on with such little business. It's worrying. There are five members of staff here and obviously some depend on their wages."

Lisa Welancer, the owner of the Eden Sandwich Bar and Cafe, also in the Royal Star Arcade, said: "We've not been too badly affected yet - in fact we had a very busy Saturday. But I am nervous about what the future may hold, especially learning that Ireland has ordered all its bars and restaurants to close. Imagine, no bars open in Ireland on St Patrick's Day!"

Lisa Welancer of the Eden sandwich shop and coffee bar
Lisa Welancer of the Eden sandwich shop and coffee bar

She said: "We obviously are always careful about hygiene, but we are letting customers know about the special measures we are taking, and advising them for example not to sit at a table until its been sanitised."

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