It’s a sad cycle.

A business has a confirmed coronavirus case, so it closes while potentially infected staff and customers are traced, and the premises are sterilised.

Then it reopens, but there’s a problem — the customers have gone.

No-one knows this devastating progression better than Stephanie and David Boyd, whose Thai Rock restaurant was home to Sydney’s biggest coronavirus cluster.

A woman stands with her back to the camera. She is wearing a vest with the words "covid safety marshal" on it.
Leeanne E keeps a close watch over social distancing in the restaurant.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

The couple shut their Wetherill Park eatery on July 9 after a staff member tested positive to the virus.

Two months, and 103 cases later, the business is in a deep, deep hole.

A week after reopening, their restaurant is empty.

“We are down 90 per cent of what we were before the closure,” Ms Boyd said.

“If we continue like this for another four weeks, we’ll be out of business.”

Several empty tables
Customers have deserted the eatery since the coronavirus crisis.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)
A woman wearing a face mask can be seen in a kitchen
Chef Kim Tran dons a face mask and gloves while preparing food.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

The cluster of cases, which unfolded over several weeks, was traced back to one lunch service.

“When we got the first call from our staff member, it was about getting to work to make sure everyone was safe and healthy,” Mr Boyd said.

“But during isolation that’s when the sadness and hurt kicked in.”

Initially, 15 people were infected.

A woman with a face mask stands between several empty tables
Business at the restaurant has plummeted 90 per cent since it reopened.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)
A woman holds a glass bottle filled with liquid in her hand, and pours it into a glass.
A staff member prepares for another quiet lunch service at Thai Rock.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

But the numbers fanned out across the city as contacts of people who had eaten at the restaurant caught the virus.

“Each new case was like a cut, a wound to me,” Ms Boyd said.

“I would see a new case in the media on Facebook and the tears wouldn’t stop.”

On July 26, the couple’s second restaurant in Potts Point also had a confirmed COVID-19 infection, leading to six cases linked over the next two weeks.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has predicted the state’s economy will shrink by 10 per cent this financial year.

A large number of empty tables
More than 100 people were linked to the cluster, which started at the restaurant.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)
A man wearing a face mask stirs a large saucepan of food on a stove.
Chef Kern Phoumivong prepares a dish at the eatery this week.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

While many businesses battle the pandemic-driven downturn, for Thai Rock, a reputational annihilation has compounded their problems.

The blowback online was immediate.

“We were told to go and die and to burn in hell,” she said.

“People were leaving bad reviews about our restaurant online, even though we were closed for deep cleaning.

“I struggled to get out of bed, and I would cry every day.”

the back of a camera, with an image on its screen which has identified the warmest parts of a person
The Wetherill Park business now has a thermo camera to monitor customers.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)
Two large automatic hand sanitiser dispensers on a wall
The eatery has plenty of strategies to help stop the spread of coronavirus.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

Ms Boyd said she would be devastated to shut the restaurant, which they have run for eight years.

The owners have installed a thermo camera to check each patron’s temperature as they enter Thai Rock.

The restaurant also has a COVID marshal to make sure social distancing is adhered to, and all the usual precautions like sanitiser and regular cleaning.

“We have a microbiologist that we hired to do surprise visits and swab the whole restaurant, and an electronic cleaner and fogger,” Mr Boyd said.

“The costs are large but what else can we do, we have to try.”