Restaurant chiefs had hoped to extend opening hours on New Year's Eve to allow customers to ring in 2021 but are now reeling from news that they will be shut again as early as December 28.
There is now consternation within the hospitality industry after Taoiseach Micheál Martin and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed further restrictions are being recommended by Nphet.
The news stunned Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) representatives, as it has emerged the RAI met with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and the Department of Tourism on Wednesday. That was with a view to extending opening hours on New Year's Eve.
In a week when Fáilte Ireland launched its 'Dine Out Safely' campaign, extended opening hours on December 31 were being discussed in a bid to reduce house parties in uncontrolled settings.
Talks had been positive, according to RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins.
"We're absolutely deflated," Mr Cummins told the Herald.
"We met with the Tánaiste and the Department of Tourism on Wednesday and we left that meeting with the impression that it would be January before there would be some form of shutdown.
"We actually had very positive talks about extending opening hours until 12.30am on New Year's Eve.
Mr Cummins insists that data reaffirms the RAI's position surrounding the safety of diners, with Fáilte Ireland guidelines and measures equipping businesses to trade safely, in turn protecting jobs and livelihoods.
"It's soul-destroying," Mr Cummins added. "There have been no outbreaks in restaurants, cafes and gastropubs over the last 14 days - zero.
"That's HPSC numbers we are talking and, all the while, house parties are rampant with no policing and no control. I can see and hear them myself in my own area.
"Dr Tony Holohan was on the radio saying that nobody is being targeted by these restrictions, well the overwhelming feeling within our industry is that pubs and restaurants are not only being targeted - we are being scapegoated.
"210,000 workers, 30,000 business owners, this is crippling them and many simply won't return from this - they have been left reeling.
"It's unbelievable how there is no clamping down on on-street drinking and house parties, yet we can't have bookings in, providing contact tracing details, with a maximum of six people sitting in a controlled environment.
"There was a Covid Safety Charter drawn up by the Department of Health and it has been brilliantly implemented by Fáilte Ireland. Fáilte Ireland have ploughed €1m into the Dine Out Safely campaign in order to really hammer home awareness and to reassure customers on the safety of dining out.
"This now has just heaped the stress and strain on restaurant owners and staff who were already suffering but were starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel."
In line with Fáilte Ireland launching the Dine Out Safely campaign, the Herald paid a visit to FX Buckley yesterday on Dublin's Pembroke Street during a busy pre-Christmas lunch sitting.
Guidelines were practiced stringently by staff - and customers - and our table of three was situated safely away from other diners, yet not far enough to lose out on the atmosphere.
Mr Cummins is urging the Government to halt the restrictions until at least December 30, to give businesses a chance of survival.
"A busy restaurant could take in €10,000 per day. Those extra few days will mean €30,000 extra to owners - that will cover the cost of bills, rents, stock already purchased and get them through the month of January," Mr Cummins said.
"That would be crucial to saving these businesses from going under."