The Cabinet has agreed that pubs that do not serve food will be able to reopen from 21 September.

However, a group of publicans who gathered outside Leinster House said this is the fourth date they have been given to reopen and do not trust that it will happen.

The reopening will be subject to local restrictions that may arise from time to time, with indications that public health advice could impact on plans to reopen pubs in Dublin and Limerick. 

Draft Government guidelines, which were drawn up in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, were circulated to vintners' groups last weekend.

They are broadly the same as those that have been brought in for pubs where food is being served.

These include keeping customer records for contact tracing purposes and time slots that are limited to one hour and 45 minutes where physical distancing of one metre can be maintained.

However, time slots of 105 minutes would not be a requirement where physical distancing of two metres can be "strictly maintained".

There will also be strict regulations such as a requirement that all drinks will be served at tables only and these tables must be socially distanced.

The Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, said none of the decisions regarding pubs "trump any advice of NPHET in relation to any part of the country now or into the future." 

He said the Government had decided that as of now pubs will open on 21 September.

However, he added public health advice will always supersede that decision. 

He said the Government had received a warning about rising cases in Dublin and Limerick. 

"The warning that we have been given in relation to Dublin and Limerick is the same warning that was given very publicly by the chief medical officer in relation to Dublin and Limerick," he said.

Other items, such as international travel restrictions and attendance at sports events, are likely to be dealt with in the Government's medium-term Living With Covid-19 plan, which is set to be published next Monday.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Latest coronavirus stories

Vintners' Federation of Ireland Chief Executive Padraic Cribben repeated his call for additional supports publicans who have not yet been able to reopen their pubs.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Cribben said a reinstatement of the use of the bar, as opposed to table service, will be a priority "once there is confidence that the guidelines are being complied with".

He welcomed the prospect of pubs reopening and said pub owners have "mounting bills" after being closed for six months.

Mr Cribben said social distancing and the 11.30pm closing time are key aspects of the Government guidelines, but the "biggest single issue is the use of the bar which is very important in small pubs".

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Tipperary Publican TJ McInerney said pub owners had been "treated like children".

He said 21 September is the fourth date publicans have been given and he will not be buying any stock until he has confirmation of the date from the Taoiseach. 

He said he would be meeting Micheál Martin today and would propose a suite of measures that would help pubs to reopen safely.

Mr McInerney said the supports so far from Government have not been enough.

"I won't be happy until the doors of that pub is open and I'm standing behind it looking at the locals social distancing," he said.

Tipperary Vintners Federation chairman Kieran Linnane said publicans, who are in a "desperate situation", will need financial support in order to reopen their doors.

He said a lot of publicans have been broken mentally by the situation, which he said has been "very, very badly handled."

Brexit, public service pay also on Cabinet agenda

In what is a busy Cabinet agenda, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was due to bring the final Brexit preparedness memo to Government.

The document will be launched tomorrow by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Mr Coveney.

The plan outlines two possible scenarios at the end of this year; a limited Free Trade Agreement (including fisheries) or a no trade deal Brexit with the EU and UK trading on WTO terms, including tariffs and quotas, from 1 January.

The plan's language is stark and states that either outcome will involve fundamental change for any business that trades good "to, from or through" the UK.

The layout of each chapter in the plan concludes with what Government is doing and then what an individual business must do to prepare.

Separately, Cabinet was due to review a memo that will seek to get the green light for exploratory talks to begin with unions on the possibility of negotiating a new public service pay agreement.

The current agreement is in place until the end of the year and Government has committed to paying the 2% increase due in October as the final installment of the pay deal.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was due to update Cabinet that informal talks will start this week with the unions to see if there is a basis for more formal negotiations on a possible successor agreement.

Additional reporting Aisling Kenny