Draft guidelines issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) have indicated that restaurants and pubs that serve food may be able to reduce the two-metre physical distancing restriction to one metre in certain circumstances when they reopen later this month.
But it is understood that those circumstances include limiting the length of stay in the pub or restaurant to a maximum of 90 minutes, while customers would also have to pre-book before making a visit.
The draft document, 'Covid-19: Guidance for Food Service Businesses', was drawn up by the HPSC following a request for further clarity from tourism agency, Fáilte Ireland.
In a statement, Fáilte Ireland said the guidance is aimed at facilitating the safe reopening of food service businesses, including pubs that serve food.
"The guidelines refer to various measures and arrangements, including a potential reduction of the current 2-metre physical distancing restriction to 1-metre in certain circumstances," it said.
However, neither Fáilte Ireland nor the HPSC would comment specifically on what those circumstances would be because the guidelines remain in draft form.
But Government sources indicated they refer to a maximum length of stay of 90 minutes in a food service premises and the requirement for mandatory pre-booking by customers.
The hospitality trade had been lobbying hard for a reduction in the 2m rule, because providers say it will not be economically viable for them to reopen with a 2m rule in place.
But there is concern that a defined maximum length of stay and mandatory pre-booking for customers may prove to be impractical for many providers, particularly those dependent on walk-in clients.
A requirement for kitchen staff to wear personal protective equipment, also understood to be contained in the draft guidance, may also prove contentious.
Fáilte Ireland said it is working through the document in consultation with officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.