It was surreal. It was celebratory. It was a little bit of history in Canberra's COVID lockdown journey.
As the clock ticked past midnight into Friday and some lockdown restrictions were adjusted, what was almost certainly the first group of Canberrans to return to in-house dining at their favourite restaurant and cafe WERE IN THE HOUSE.
Public servant Krishna Shukla won a competition to dine with a bunch of her mates at Grease Monkey in Braddon in a midnight feast as October 15 came around and cafes and restaurants were allowed to welcome back customers for in-house dining.
She was thrilled to be back with her friends, counting not just this latest lockdown but the heartache, anxiety and disruption caused by COVID since March 2020 as factors affecting many Canberrans.
The dinner was a chance to reflect and be grateful to be out the other side.
"It's going great. We did a couple of toasts because we all feel so blessed. We feel so lucky because we are the first ones out, welcoming in the eased restrictions," Krishna said about an hour into the celebration.
"It's just such a good time enjoying dinner and reflecting. So many of us have lost loved ones in lockdown and some of us haven't met our families for more than a year. And to have this with all your friends, is just a blessing."
Krishna, a public servant who works at Parliament House, a Miss World ACT representative, and an active volunteer in the Canberra community, said it was strange to be out dining in a deserted Lonsdale Street - a situation that should be very different as Friday unfolded and restaurants and cafes re-opened proper.
She and her mates had the place to themselves as part of the competition, staff, happy to be back serving customers in-house, waiting on their every need.
"We're all alone, the streets are empty. It's a table set up with a candlelight and we're enjoying some amazing music," she said.
"And the eight of us have five or six staff. It's such a unique experience. I come to Grease Monkey all the time, I'm a regular but never did I imagine I would have this experience, a candle-lit dinner in my favourite place.
"We're just all so grateful and I could never have imagined happening to me otherwise."
Krishna said she had kept as busy as she could during lockdown.
"I have been working from home and it's just been a case of trying to keep sane, keep in touch with friends and family. So many things have been postponed or cancelled.
"I've been volunteering even in lockdown with Helping Hands, helping pack meals and that sort of thing in my free time. So that was good."
And there were a few more things she was looking forward to as restrictions lifted.
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"I've already booked in my gym sessions. Probably needed after eating so much free Grease Monkey. So straight to the gym. And looking forward to life getting back to normal. Being with family and friends and looking after your mental health and going back in to work. Just life as usual. It's just so exciting to be experiencing that."
From Friday licensed venues, cafes, restaurants and food courts are allowed:
- 25 people across the venue or one person per four square metres, whichever is lesser (exc. staff).
- If businesses wish to have more than 25 people they can have up to 50 people outdoors, or one person per four square metres, whichever is lesser.
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