The start of February marks the reawakening of life in Canberra each year.
Government workers return sandy from South Coast trips and university students begin to trickle back in.
But 2021 is like no other February the city's had before. The global pandemic rages on and border closures within the country remain a persistent possibility.
Public servants were strongly encouraged to return to the office in October last year and by the year's end, nearly three-quarters of Canberra's public service were back at office desks. It's meant the local businesses that survive by keeping them caffeinated have received a much-needed boost.
Brew and Brew's Forrest shop is one of those happy stories.
Owner Charlie Dagseven admitted things were pretty terrible in the initial lockdown months but had picked up towards the end of last year.
JobKeeper, which is set to end at the end of March, kept his business afloat when its revenue dropped off the COVID-19 cliff. Now he's no longer eligible - a positive sign - thanks to the business generated from returning public servants and private sector workers.
He's also less worried if Canberra ends up in lockdown once more as he's got alternative plans ready to go.
"Nobody saw [COVID-19] coming but as a multiple business owner in Canberra, I'm not as scared anymore," Mr Dagseven said.
"I'm not one to just pack up and leave to be honest with you, we're in business, you know, we have to make it work for us somehow.
"The good thing is obviously, in a positive way, I think we've got an idea of what's to come if it does come back."
Lobby cafes situated within department buildings in Parkes were also hit hard by the closures.
Constitution Cafe in the National Archives of Australia and the Treasury building's Coffers Cafe are among the businesses that were left suddenly empty when the working from home exodus hit.
Dennis Toulis, owner of Coffers, remembered the drop was swift and brutal when Treasury cleared the decks.
"We obviously had a dramatic crash in turnover," Mr Toulis said.
"We probably dropped 70 per cent of our normal turnover so we dropped down to 30 per cent.
"So for a business that has been very stable over the years to one that has gone down to almost rock bottom, it's been a really difficult and challenging year."
Ralph Packard, who runs Constitution Cafe, also faced tough decisions, having to let staff go and adapt to the scary, new normal.
While things have picked back up with workers returning, the drop in tourism to the national's institutions has also been felt by the Parkes cafe.
"We are also reliant on tourists ... and when state borders are closed, we don't get any visitors," Mr Packard said.
"Essentially, JobKeeper, without a doubt, kept us alive. It was a godsend."
Mr Toulis has accepted it's not likely to ever return to what it was but has been hopeful it'll get close enough to survive through the pandemic.
"Some revenue streams, particularly catering, are probably not going to come back but the actual cafe trade looks like it's on track," Mr Toulis said.
"We feel confident we will return to normal and maybe Coffers will never have the revenue that it had 100 per cent but I think it will come close."
It's a similar mindset for Mr Packard who said it would also be dependent on how senior department figures handled new working arrangements.
"The different department heads think differently about the way they're going to do [office returns]. So, that could be a determiner on how things really improve in the future," Mr Packard said.
"I say improve because it's been pretty depressed and so it will only get better."
At Trent Esmerian's Civic cafe, Interlude Espresso Bar, things have also started to look up, thanks to the return of workers in nearby government offices.
In October 2020, Mr Esmerian told The Canberra Times it would be a miracle if his cafe ever got to 50 per cent of his pre-COVID-19 revenue.
More than three months later, he's finally reached that goal.
"Whatever increase I've seen is because of the return to the offices," Mr Esmerian said.
"It's still only 50 per cent but I guess it's better than what we were doing before."
Mr Esmerian worried while his revenue was recovering, it would be affected by another major change coming - the drying up of rental subsidies from the ACT government.
That, coupled with the public service's more flexible working arrangements since COVID-19, has meant he's needed to rethink how the business is run.
"The nature of lobby cafes has permanently changed forever," Mr Esmerian said.
"The [agency] team leaders aren't going to be like, 'Oh, you have to be here five days'. No one's really going to enforce that.
"So, even if we get 100 per cent of people back at the office, they're not going to be doing five days a week."
While only a 10-minute drive away, Bread and Butter's location in Brindabella Business Park seems to have made a difference.
Servicing mostly Defence personnel and private sector workers in the area, cafe manager Salina Silwal Bohara has said things have largely returned to normal.
"It looks like a lot of more uniform people are back to work and we can see so many new faces," Ms Silwal Bohara said.
"It feels like a bit of a normality here at the moment, you know, it's just a normal February rush.
"But if we look back to what we went through in March and April 2020, this is way better."
Ms Silwal Bohara has said she's hiring again as university students return and things are finally starting to look up again for the cafe.
But like the rest of the cafe owners pondered, she said it's still hard to know what exactly lies ahead.
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