Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Assyrian singer Gaggi Atoraya is something of a local celebrity – he loves to perform, and his friends funny enough call him Al Capone of Fairfield. For the past 100 days, he has been without an audience that “sang at home” alone when his suburb became the epicenter of Sydney’s Delta eruption.

So Mr Atoraya got energy to be in front of a crowd again on Monday, sharing jokes and pointed barbs with friends as they reunited over tea and coffee at their local cafe on Fairfield’s shopping strip.

Gaggi Atoraya, seated on the right, during a reunion of friends in Fairfield on Monday.

Gaggi Atoraya, seated on the right, during a reunion of friends in Fairfield on Monday.Credit:Wolter Peeters

The group chatted with the waiter and other acquaintances who stopped by to say hello: a scene replicated across dozens of tables lined up outside the street’s various cafes so longtime friends could catch up on the open. “I’ve missed you!” a man enthusiastically told the waitress when she came to take his order.

Atoraya captured the mood among his group: “We have come back together again and we are happy because we are all friends, we are together, we have not seen each other for a while. Now we sit together and talk together, that’s good. ”

But elsewhere in the city center there was less tension. Bargain stores and grocery stores buzzed, though between those stores, several store fronts remained closed despite Monday’s lenient restrictions that allowed them to open.

The owner of the Coffee Stop cafe at Fairfield train station, Salah Marbin, was grateful to have remained open serving takeaway during the lockdown and earned enough from regular customers to cover his rent. “We were not looking for profits, just to survive,” he said.

Salah Marbin hands out coffee in Fairfield on the state's first reopening day.

Salah Marbin hands out coffee in Fairfield on the state’s first reopening day.Credit:Wolter Peeters

After overcoming this obstacle, Marbin said he is optimistic about the future. But he is also aware that shops on both sides of his own – a cute shop and a barber – have had their shutters down for several months and will not roll them up again.

“It’s getting busy, it’s ok, but not like before,” Mr Marbin said. “See you at the end of the month. I’m always positive, but too many stores are closing down. ”

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