Fear and uncertainty haunt thousands of unopened pubs across the country following the Government's decision to postpone the reopening of pubs under Phase 4 from July 20 to August 10.
In many pubs in rural areas, those in the smaller towns and villages where it is not viable to offer full meals, there are grave concerns for the future.
Throughout Ireland there are pubs that have been havens for small communities in helping to counteract problems of loneliness and isolation. Now there is a shadow over their future existence.
Some publicans have rankled at inferences that they cannot be trusted to look after the health of their own customers.
Pat McGrath, looks around him in the village of Kilfinane in Co Limerick, population 1,000, and sees other people doing business. He feels bad that he is not allowed to open along with the two hairdressers, the butcher, the grocery shop, the post office and the service station.
"'Tis crazy, really. I feel degraded. Yes, degraded that we're the only sector that isn't open," he said. He had hoped to open the doors of McGraths tomorrow and let in the daylight and his customers. His hopes were crushed last Wednesday night when the Government decreed he must stay shut for another three weeks.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar indicated last Thursday that even August 10 as a reopening date for pubs could not be relied upon.
"The uncertainty and the fear is shocking," said the publican.
The Tanaiste told the Dail: "We are not saying they will open on August 10. We are saying they will open no sooner than August 10. And it will depend on the numbers and on how the virus behaves between now and then."
Mr Varadkar acknowledged the upset caused by the Cabinet decision to pause the Phase 4 reopening.
"I know that a lot of people - people running pubs and hotels - will be very disappointed at the decision Government took ... but will acknowledge that the decision was taken for good reasons - and that was reason of public health," he said.
The Tanaiste indicated more grant aid could be made available to help pubs who face closure for at least another three weeks. He said: "I'm looking at whether we can make the restart grant better and more attractive, particularly for those who need it most which is the hospitality sector, including pubs."
Pat said: "In the 1990s, Kilfinane had 14 pubs. At the beginning of this year, there were just five pubs left. And all five pubs are now closed [because of Covid]. There are fears there will be less than five pubs left at the end of it.
"I don't know if people understand the plight of rural Ireland. We're being left behind majorly.
"Publicans are treated like second-class citizens. I understand you have to have safety but being the only sector of business that is closed is sending an awful message to pubs and publicans while the sale of alcohol in off-licences has gone through the roof."
Pat (58) runs the pub with his wife Margaret. They have four adult children and three grandchildren.
"Ninety per cent of the time, one person will manage the pub at night on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I don't think people realise how bad it is," he said.
"We all needed every customer that was coming through our doors. Now there are house parties left, right and centre."
He knows people aged 35 and 40 who told him they will be afraid to go back to pubs when they eventually reopen. "That's the fear. I fear our trade is finished," he said.
He knows five pubs within a 10-mile radius of Kilfinane that "will not be reopening".
"I fear the pubs will not re-open in 2020. That's the fear I have now."
And he would have gone "off his head" if he was not able to keep busy raising a few bullocks on some land he farms. He receives the €350 Covid payment and bills must be paid. He hopes 2021 will see an improvement as he has loans to repay, including a mortgage and a motor loan. And he knows "for a fact" there are pubs selling alcohol and not serving food.
In Co Donegal, The Tavern pub in Kilclooney, near Portnoo, has remained closed.
Owner Martina Barrett (45) celebrated recently with her fiance David the 16th anniversary of when the couple acquired the pub. Martina went into the business with a lot of experience of the hospitality sector, having trained as a chef and had worked in bars and kitchens for years.
The pub has a fully equipped kitchen which had been used in the past to provide meals but it was no longer in service. As the lockdown continued, the time lag between the planned opening of pubs selling food and the planned opening of all others was not long enough to merit restarting cooked meals. But "in hindsight", after Phase 4 was postponed, Martina feels it might have been worth it after all to restart the meals business.
The business relied on a lot on visitors to the area so 2020 is a very bad year. If all pubs do not reopen on August 10, "it will be a real struggle to carry on", she said.
She believes some will find it very hard to reopen. The closure of so many has been "a hammer blow for the mental health" of communities. All pubs should have opened at the same time, she said.
Pat Rouse (71) joined the family pub business in Ballina, Co Mayo, when he was 19 after his father died. Now, he and his wife have the help of their daughter Fiona and grandson Matthew as part of the team. Rouse's Bar has remained closed along with three-quarters of the town's pubs. In 1970, it had up to 80 pubs but that number has halved since then.
He said the way to tackle the problem of big house parties was to open all pubs. This would ensure that younger drinkers would be in a controlled environment where publicans would oversee health and safety measures.
"We need to be trusted, it's as simple as that. And if a publican is found to be out of line, he must suffer the consequences," he said.
The Government should stop pussy-footing and give pubs the guidelines they need to prepare properly for their reopening, he added.
Customer David Gill said many people just wanted to have coffee or tea in pubs. Pubs like Rouse's play a vital mental health role for customers and should be allowed to reopen, he added.
Publicans continue to fear for their futures and hope for an end to the plague of uncertainty.