Customers who dine indoor in pubs, restaurants and cafes when they reopen will be given 105 minutes per booking if there is a distance of less than two metres between tables.
Under new guidelines published on Wednesday morning, bookings will allow for a maximum of six people aged 13 or over per table. This limit of six does not include accompanying children aged 12 or younger. The total combined capacity at a table cannot exceed 15 overall.
New rules around time limits, smoking areas and entertainment in restaurants and other hospitality businesses have been published by Fáilte Ireland.
The guidelines were approved by the Department of Taoiseach and will be part of the Government’s wider plan for reopening due to be announced on Friday.
The guidelines state that physical distancing of two metres should be maintained between tables in an indoor setting.
However, this could be reduced to one metre where pre-booked, time-limited slots are in place for customers that are restricted to a maximum of 105 minutes plus 15 minutes to allow for cleaning.
Pre-booking and time-limited slots of 105 minutes duration would not be a requirement if physical distancing of two metres is “strictly maintained”, the document said.
For outdoor dining there could be a distance between tables of one metre.
The guidelines have also emphasised the importance of ventilation when hospitality reopens. Hotels are due to reopen on June 2nd, and outdoor hospitality is set to resume on June 7th.
"The proven importance of ensuring adequate fresh, outside air circulation should be factored into operational practices. The spread of the virus is most likely when infected people are in close contact, so the risk of getting Covid is higher in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces where infected people spend long periods of time together in close proximity," the document said.
“It is important to maximise ventilation in areas where people are in close contact. While large droplets containing the virus will settle on to the surrounding surfaces within seconds, smaller particles containing the virus can stay suspended for longer periods of time. Dilution of indoor air by opening windows and doors or using mechanical ventilation systems can lower the airborne concentration and remove these smaller particles from the air.”
The document also instructed restaurants and cafes to keep up to date on the relevant international travel restrictions that are in place “as these may be subject to change on a regular basis”.
Live music would also not be allowed as restaurant owners are urged to keep noise levels down.
“In adherence with WHO [World Health Organisation] evidence, recent public health advice states that there must be a restriction on noise levels within restaurants to prevent transmission of Covid-19.
“High noise levels within a premises can impact conversation negatively and encourage customers to raise their voice to communicate thus encouraging possible transmission of the virus,” the document said.
“Straining to hear others due to high volumes can cause people to move closer to each other and not adhere to social distancing. To avoid this, businesses must put in place a plan and take appropriate measures to control noise levels, to ensure volumes do not rise to a level where people are required to take such measures to hear others.”
The document also recommended having “segmented food and beverage areas to allow for smokers and non-smokers”.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland has welcomed the publication of the Fáilte Ireland guidelines.
"Our primary focus must now be the reopening of restaurants, gastro pubs and cafes in line with hotels. The guidelines prove that there is now difference between a hotel restaurant and a standalone restaurant," chief executive Adrian Cummins said.
Padraig Cribben, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), also welcomed the guidelines.
His organisation was “working” their way through the 31-page document, but it appeared to contain “very little that we didn’t expect”.
The publication of the guidelines would give his members the opportunity to plan for the June 7th reopening of outdoor dining, he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
Mr Cribbben said it was good that the €9 meal requirement was gone, but he called for a review of the length of time and distances involved for indoor dining when it reopens on July 1st.
It was not practical to have different distance requirements indoors and outdoors and would lead to difficulties for premises, he said.
Businesses had been closed for 15 months so for them every day counts, added Mr Cribben, which was why his members wanted indoor dining to return no later than July 1st, he said.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Covid subcommittee will meet on Thursday to decide how to ease remaining restrictions on international travel, hospitality and mass gatherings over the coming months.
The Cabinet will then meet on Friday.