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'It felt like I was getting married again' - Irish pubs reopen as restrictions ease

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Niall Lawless, the owner of Mary Mac’s pub in Dublin, putting up social distancing signs in preparation for customers returning (Niall Carson/PA)

Niall Lawless, the owner of Mary Mac’s pub in Dublin, putting up social distancing signs in preparation for customers returning (Niall Carson/PA)

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Niall Lawless, the owner of Mary Mac’s pub in Dublin, putting up social distancing signs in preparation for customers returning (Niall Carson/PA)

A Dublin publican compared Monday to his wedding day as he welcomed back his regulars after months of lockdown.

Pints are being pulled across Ireland again after pubs and bars that serve food were able to open for the first time since mid-March.

But post-lockdown pub life is very different to what went before.

Many establishments have divided up their floor-space with partitions to ensure social distancing compliance.

Punters have to book a table in advance and standing waiting for your drink at the bar is no longer allowed, with all custom now conducted by table service.

Niall Lawless, the owner of Mary Mac's in south Dublin, said it had been a very hard few months.

"Publicans and bar staff are very much social beings and we enjoy being out and we enjoy interacting with our customers, it's what we do well," he said.

"And to be sitting at home looking at the four walls has certainly been trying, as my wife would tell you."

Mr Lawless said there had been a great buzz around reopening.

"This morning coming in it felt like I was getting married again," he said.

"It was great to be coming in."

The pub relies on a lot of trade from sports and music fans attending matches and concerts at the nearby RDS and Aviva stadiums.

With those all cancelled for the foreseeable future, Mr Lawless anticipates a hard road ahead.

"When we closed we had been looking at a very good year, now it's about sticking your finger in the dyke and hoping to survive," he said.

Angus Fleming, a regular at Mary Mac's, savoured his first pint of Guinness back at his local.

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Angus Fleming has a pint of Guinness in Mary Mac’s pub, Dublin as Ireland further eases restrictions with pubs that serve food, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and barbers allowed to reopen following the coronavirus lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

Angus Fleming has a pint of Guinness in Mary Mac’s pub, Dublin as Ireland further eases restrictions with pubs that serve food, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and barbers allowed to reopen following the coronavirus lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

Angus Fleming has a pint of Guinness in Mary Mac’s pub, Dublin as Ireland further eases restrictions with pubs that serve food, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and barbers allowed to reopen following the coronavirus lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

"It's great, I've been looking forward to it for a few months," he said.

"I enjoy my nice quiet pint with the paper and a bite to eat."

He said returning to the pub and seeing some familiar faces was an uplifting experience.

"It makes life a little bit more real," he said.

Elsewhere in the city, John Melia, the manager of the Market Bar, said bookings were coming in thick and fast.

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John Melia, general manager of the Market Bar in Dublin, prepares to welcome his first customers since lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

John Melia, general manager of the Market Bar in Dublin, prepares to welcome his first customers since lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

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John Melia, general manager of the Market Bar in Dublin, prepares to welcome his first customers since lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

The once large open-plan bar is now almost unrecognisable, having been divided into lots of boxed-off cubicles for returning customers.

"There's been huge demand for today and especially for the first weekend," he said on Monday.

"People are booking beyond the first week as well, which is good - it shows it's not just a novelty factor.

"Hopefully people are re-emerging and adapting to normal life and making plans."

Pubs that do not serve food will be able to reopen in Ireland on July 20.

PA Media