Newport café ‘pays it forward’ to out of work locals


When the news came from the Federal Government in late March that all cafés, restaurants and bars had to close to sit-in customers, many were forced to change their business model overnight.

One such café was Newport’s Cocoa Bar, a busy beachside spot catering for up to 50 people for breakfast and lunch.

“At the announcement of takeaway only we reconfigured our café overnight to be able to trade and look after our loyal customers of 10 years,” owner Nuala Quigley recalls. 

While the café was able to adapt quickly by offering take-home dinners and essential groceries, Nuala and her husband Martin realised many in the community would suffer under the lockdowns.

“The very first day of lockdown we put a sign out the front offering free coffees to anyone that has lost their job.

“We wanted our community to feel supported at this difficult time and for them to go about their daily routine and enjoy a coffee. 

“We have had over 450 coffees donated by the public, and we still have people walking past our café, seeing our ‘Pay it Forward’ sign and coming in to buy someone a coffee.”

Conscious of supporting their vulnerable community members, Nuala, Martin and the Cocoa team devised a system to allow customers out of work to receive their free coffees with dignity.

“We decided to use the word ‘Aloha’, so customers didn’t feel ashamed to ask for a free coffee,” Nuala explains.

“Our hope was to be able to provide people financially impacted by COVID-19 with a little normality in their daily routine, without having to stress.

“By enjoying their daily morning coffee, it helps them hopefully start their day with a little comfort knowing that the community has their back.”

Nuala says while she and the team are excited restrictions are lifting and they can host seated customers this weekend, she hopes the community continues to support those that will struggle for a while to come.

“Just this morning we had someone from Melbourne call up after seeing our posts on social media and donate $100 worth of free coffees.

“What excites us most is the prospect that people can sit and enjoy their coffee, hopefully helping to improve the mental health of our community overall.”

Stephanie Aikins

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