Tens of thousands of families will struggle this Christmas unless the hospitality sector is allowed to reopen with indoor service next month, pub groups have warned.
A decision on whether restaurants and pubs will be all-owed to trade is not expected until the end of this month, meaning thousands of staff face an anxious wait.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have warned that the country will face a "two-tier Christmas" if the industry remains closed when Ireland exits lockdown on December 1.
Pubs were previously told by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that it is unlikely they will reopen this year after the Government said the country will move to Level 3 restrictions next month.
The LVA and VFI have accused the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) of failing to provide any statistical evidence to justify keeping pubs closed.
Around one-third of pubs in Dublin have not reopened since they closed last March 15.
"If pubs and the rest of the hospitality sector are kept closed in December while the rest of the economy is allowed to trade, then there will be a two-tier Christmas in this country," said LVA chief executive Donall O'Keeffe.
"It's not OK for the Government to impose this burden on tens of thousands of families all across Ireland. It's not OK for government policy to be creating a 'haves and have nots' division around Christmas.
"Are Micheál Martin or Leo Varadkar going to tell the tens of thousands of children whose families work in the hospitality sector that they may not be able to get the presents they want?
"These are the points being raised by pub staff all over Ireland who are becoming increasingly desperate about what type of Christmas they'll be able to provide for their families.
"People in our industry have taken a lot of pain this year, but if this situation is allowed to happen I don't think it will ever be forgotten. It's a sure-fire way to sow lasting discord around the country."
The LVA said staff will not be able to afford Christmas on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
"The vintners believe such a situation will create deep division in the country - if large sections of the economy are allowed to go back to work and receive their normal salaries in the run-up to Christmas while the families of those working in the hospitality industry must watch on," Mr O'Keeffe said.
Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the VFI, said limiting businesses to a 15-person outdoor capacity "simply won't happen in December".
"The Government might as well just take the keys away for most of these businesses. It certainly won't allow 90pc of the sector to go back to work," he said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has ruled out giving early advice to the Government during the lockdown, despite more encouraging signs that the severe restrictions are working.
"For all their focus on the hospitality sector, it's remarkable Nphet has yet to produce any statistical evidence showing that pubs or other parts of the hospitality sector have been the sources of infection in Ireland," Mr Cribben said.
"Their unproven approach can't be allowed to create a Christmas divide."