The owners of the iconic Canberra business Capital Pancakes in Civic - previously the Pancake Parlour - were left reeling on Friday as they came to a decision to shut their doors after 36 years of trade, the coronavirus pandemic and the 10-diner rule "the final straw".
The restaurant, downstairs from the City bus interchange, with its familiar wooden booths and menu of feel-good sweet and savoury pancakes, was opened in 1984 by Londoner Philip Barton, whose son Jefferson was the current manager.
The two were close to tears on Friday as they decided to shut the doors for good, their final meal served a takeaway one to customers on Thursday night.
They said the 10-person limit for cafes and restaurants enforced by the ACT Government as an easing of coronavirus restrictions, did not make the business viable.
"Expenses don't suddenly cease. It costs us $600 a week for power, not the gas, just the electricity, and 10 people a day, we literally can't afford to turn the lights on for 10 people," Philip Barton said.
"It doesn't make sense that a cafe that has 20 seats is allowed 10 people and we have 265 seats and we're allowed 10 people. It's so silly and so naive. It's having no knowledge of business whatsoever."
Signs at the front of the business thanked customers for their patronage and celebrated "36 flipping good years". The restaurant had been known as the Pancake Parlour until 2018 when Mr Barton passed it own to sons Jefferson and Luca.
Mr Barton said he felt exhausted and did not believe any appeal to the government would work.
"We sort of feel beaten," he said.
"We've run the business very well and very successfully for 36 years and we've weathered the vicissitudes of the economy, it goes up, it goes down. When it goes down, we work harder. We take it a bit easier when it goes well, but we can't fight the enforced restrictions."
Jefferson Barton said the restrictions were "the final straw" and believed they could "easily have 70 to 80 people" in the restaurant with social distancing.
About 20 people have lost their jobs, including cleaners.
The restaurant meant a lot to its customers and Canberra, part of the fabric of the national capital.
"People who come here they say, 'I feel safe here' and people drive from Sydney because it has the best pancakes," he said.
"It's always here, it's like a stable thing. Everyone knows about it. There's been marriage proposals in here, people have met their wives here, they've celebrated their first baby here."
There's been marriage proposals in here, people have met their wives here, they've celebrated their first baby here.Capital Pancakes manager Jefferson Barton
The business's other partners are husband and wife Thapanee and Pairoj Amlee.
Jefferson said the owners came to the decision on Friday, saying they could also not negotiate lower rent with the landlord.
"He tried the best he could. He's also got a business to run," Jefferson said.
Philip Barton said the restaurant had been closed due to the pandemic since March 24.
"But even before then, people were scared and numbers were dropping dramatically for at least four weeks before that, so it was getting very tough anyway," he said, adding that the restaurant had also been rocked by last summer's bushfire smoke.
They had missed their two biggest days, Anzac Day and Mother's Day, the latter usually seeing 1000 customers served.
Philip Barton said he was "heartbroken".
"I love this restaurant," he said.
"We've become iconic. People position themselves in terms of the restaurant, 'Oh, we're just down from Capital Pancakes', 'Just around the corner from Capital Pancakes'. It's sad. I didn't sleep at all last night, I was so stressed out."
And the bestseller?
"Always the two-stack with maple syrup, usually with butter, but ice cream as well," Philip said.