Illawarra cafés have opened their doors again after being hit financially following a complete or partial shut down during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Cafes have been allowed to increase capacity to 50 people as long as strict social distancing rules are followed.

North Wollongong’s Il Pozzo café owner, Ingrid Panozzo has opened up about the massive financial loss she incurred because of the lockdown.

“I had to do the most painful thing of cutting down on my staff’s hours. I just couldn’t afford to pay them,” she said.

Ms Panozzo said she has been specifically stressed and concerned about the Jobkeeper payments.

She said she had to borrow money to pay her staff wages even before the government compensated her with funds.

However, The Coffee Club  manager, Jaryd Ramsy said the Jobkeeper payments had been easy for his business to access.

“Most of our members qualified for Jobkeeper and those who didn’t, applied for other government benefits so everyone is financially stable,” he said.

Mr Ramsy added that everything has gone back to normal with many customers returning since the easing of restrictions.

“We have the luxury of having a large place, we can accommodate a lot of customers even after social distancing,” he said.

“The same can’t be said for most other cafes and restaurants in Wollongong.”

Ms Panozzo said her business is still suffering from a decrease in clientele following the lockdown resulting in financial loss.

“COVID has stripped all of the hard-work that I put into establishing my café,” she said.

“I’m genuinely scared, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my café afloat.”

Mr Ramsy however, seemed to have a lot of confidence in his management team.

“We’re a national brand, we’ve got people in higher places making really good decisions for us,” he said.

“I have a lot of trust in our management team and I know that they will do everything to get our business up and running.”

Both cafes have developed economic plans for recovery, in the hope of keeping their businesses alive.