Popular café at the ABC closes its doors

Popular café at the ABC closes its doors

By Brendan Rees

A much-loved café at the ABC’s Southbank Centre has been forced to close indefinitely, saying the city’s sixth lockdown had been the final straw.

Evan Dounas, who has been running Koora120 on Southbank Boulevard for the past three years, said he was devastated after a drastic drop in patronage amid COVID-19 restrictions had “driven us to pack up and shut our doors”.

“It’s just the pandemic, no-one in their lifetime ever thought about something like this,” he told Southbank News.

“I thought we may ride it through with the government support we’ve had in the past but that just didn’t suffice.”

“You can only rob Peter and give to Paul so many times until you think it’s time to pull all the stops out and just fold up the business because it’s safer that way.”

Mr Dounas said the effect of the lockdowns had “hurt us quite a bit” with revenue having plunged by 90 per cent. 

Before the pandemic, he said business was “thriving” with his café serving between 600 and 700 customers a day – which became “about 90 if we’re lucky” in the weeks before they closed.

While he appreciated being “very well looked after at the ABC” in terms of not having to pay rent, he said he could no longer afford to stay open and made the painful decision to close his doors on September 30.  

He said the stress of trying to keep his business afloat had also become too much, which he believed had led to him having a heart attack earlier this year.

“I thought I was riding it [the pandemic] through quite well and in January I suffered a heart attack. I thought, ‘no, this is due to ill health’, but there were way too many stressors. I was extremely fit, I was out walking, I was out riding bikes, mountain biking. Obviously, something contributed to this.”

“You always question yourself, your integrity, your moral standing with the community and you think ‘have I done something wrong?’ It plays a big role when you own the business.”

Mr Dounas acknowledged the closure of his cafe had been no fault of his own and the extended lockdown had “finally caught up to us and finally someone had to make a decision and pull the plug”.  

“I actually wanted to take out a licence for 20 years but that’s obviously not on the table anymore,” he said.

“I’ve been in the industry for such a long time because I love it, and this was one of the best places I’ve ever owned and worked in,” he said of his 40-year career in the industry, adding he was heartened by the “warmth” shown by customers – some of whom had dropped off “little thank you gifts”.

“We had people crying here. I thought that was quite warming because we did try to support as many people as we could, we’ve had such a wonderful time here.”

Asked what he had planned to do next, Mr Dounas said, “After this encounter I’ve just made it as a rule that this has been the last place that I’m going to work in hospitality.”

“I’ve done my dash, four decades is more than enough for me. But I’m still too young to retire yet. I’m 55, I’ve still got a way to go.” •

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