Covid-19 lockdown caused dip in customers at gluten-free cafe but barista remains optimistic

For the owners of Gloof – a gluten-free café that opened in Soham in January 2019 - the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has had a damaging impact.

Charlotte Simoes, barista, said: “Covid-19 has hit us quite a bit - lockdown has not been good for business.”

She thinks it’s partly because “a lot of people are afraid to come out – our older regulars are concerned because of the virus.

“Mums with young children are staying away and I think some people are scared of wearing masks.

Something else that has proved “quite challenging” is that Gloof was ineligible for the government’s business support grant.

“Because we decided to expand, on March 1, and rented the property next door, we couldn’t apply.

This proved “quite challenging,” Charlotte said, adding that some staff members were furloughed during lockdown.

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Since then, however, Charlotte and Gloof owner Eniko Mocociu have made the best out of a bad situation by adapting to the new normal.

“We’ve taken a lot of tables out so there’s a lot more room. We’ve got sign-in sheets, hand sanitiser, the staff wear masks.

“We’re trying to keep everyone as safe and comfortable as we can. We hire in cleaners as well.”

Charlotte thinks that safety measures like these are helping to put people’s minds at ease a bit more.

“I think guests are starting to feel a bit more relaxed, knowing that we’ve got these things in place.

“But, on the other hand, it does limit the amount of people we can have.”

She added that “because everything the café offers is gluten-free, we’ve had coeliacs, gluten-free people and those with dietary requirements travel quite far.

“The furthest we’ve had someone travel is from Lancashire a few weeks ago. They stocked up by buying several cakes and took them home.

“It’s not just local people – we cater for everyone.”

Looking ahead, Charlotte said it’s the “not knowing” that’s hardest.

“Are we in yellow? Are we in red? What stage are we in? Are we going to be forced to close again.

“That certainly would not be good. I think if more restrictions were put in place - that stopped people from going out – it would affect us.

“So we’re positive – but it is tough.”