Walking into one of my favourite Dublin pubs was a nerve-wracking experience on the first day of opening after lockdown but, within minutes, I felt at ease.
Doheny & Nesbitt is an institution in the capital. It neighbours the Dáil and is a stone's throw from Grafton Street.
I'm told Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe grabbed a takeaway meal here the other day. However, none of the new ministers is booked in just yet.
Opened in 1867, this like all other bars across the country, has never weathered an experience like Covid-19.
And both staff and customers are doing their best to get accustomed to the new normal.
I hear an older man say: "Is this the new world order?" as he takes his seat with two friends in a snug by a now redundant bar.
There's only one bar in operation for now and a very busy barman behind a Perspex screen still manages a smile from behind a visor.
A yellow social distancing sign on the floor at the entrance, greets customers, along with a hand sanitiser attached to the wall.
Social distancing stickers are laid down to separate people in any future queue.
John O'Brien, the bar manager, welcomes me to this pub - a place where I celebrated my 40th and was keen to see again in these strange new days.
I'm taken to a table in a snug by the bar not in use, by Maggie Mcgoona, a waitress, also beaming behind that face mask.
She worked as a member of the bar staff before the pandemic but is now getting accustomed to a new job on the floor, serving customers. She's a natural.
I'm presented with a menu and I'm dying for a Guinness after all this time, so I chance a half and a Caesar salad.
The food arrives quickly and is tasty but the Guinness is heaven in a glass.
I'm at ease. I exhale.
This isn't the social scene I knew of Dublin but it's a start and Doheny & Nesbitt staff are doing their utmost to provide a great service.
The chatter of people meeting again and talking after months apart is just endearing, enticing.
I feel a little wave of emotion thinking of how much we had lost during the lockdown and how we are trying to claw our lives back, gradually.
Mr O'Brien takes everyone's names and contact details as they enter and people enter and exit through different doors to maintain a safe one-way system.
Only a small number are allowed to use the toilet at one time.
The bar staff are doing all they can to abide by the strict rules and have managed a fine balance at offering a comfortable, almost Parisian bar table experience.
"We had 70 bookings today, the biggest group were six at one table," Mr O'Brien says.
"People just want to get back to normal, to get a pint. Most people wanted that first pint of Guinness."
Everyone in the bar has to order food of at least €9 worth to be here and this pub has a reputation for good food in any case, so most customers would appreciate that fact.
"We had some requests for parties but we aren't going to do those yet, one step at a time," Mr O'Brien adds.
"We have bookings everyday. And we're delighted to be back. I've been in the trade 40 years and I know a lot of people are still nervous but they'll get their confidence back."
Customers are reminded they have 10 minutes left when their 1 hour and 45 minutes allowed at the bar is nearly up.
And from the customers I spoke to, they were happy to abide by this.
Darragh Everard (35), from Julianstown, Co Meath, was at the bar with his co-workers, Honorata Ochowiak (26) and Julian Moga (22).
The group had just marked their first day back in the office at Eirkoo recruitment agency nearby.
Managing director Mr Everard said: "It's surreal when you come in at first, when you see the paraphernalia and everything but you relax very quickly.
"It's great to be out and to be with my colleagues over a pint and some food.
"We are catching up on life."
John and Paula Elliot have travelled from just outside Belfast. They want to see how a pub in the Republic is opening up ahead of their 10 Clement coffee shops opening on July 4 under UK restrictions.
"They're doing very well," said Mr Clement (52).
"This is like a little haven in Dublin right now. We went into some cafes and there was no atmosphere at all. People are having the craic in here. They've made everything as normal as possible."
Bookshop manager Maire Griffin and solicitor Michael Kelleher were enjoying socialising over a drink and a bite.
"We wanted to get out after lockdown to inject a bit of a social life back into our lives," Ms Griffin said.
Mr Kelleher added: "This is an iconic Dublin pub and it's great it's back open.
"I was surprised how impressively disciplined it is.
"Things are different of course, but we are out and now is the time to start living again."
Maggie returns and reminds me as I take one last look around - it's time to leave. A group of young men are waiting on my table.
Disposable hand towels, temperatures checks for staff and 15 minutes between bookings will form part of the "new norm" when Fire steakhouse and bar in Dublin re-opens its doors today for the first time since lockdown began.