The hospitality industry warned of a “tsunami” of job losses in Northern Ireland.
Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said there had been a number of pubs and restaurants forced to take drastic actions and lay off staff.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster he said he was constantly receiving messages about job losses and revealed 180 staff had been laid off by the Clover Group. It operates city centre bars including Henrys, The Jailhouse, Pug Uglys, Margot, Fountain Lane, Whites Tavern and The Oyster Rooms.
It comes after the Beannchor Group was forced to temporarily lay off 800 people because of the turndown in trade.
Owner Bill Wolsey said his “absolute concern” was for staff.
“I’ve done what was sensible for the business and have made sure that the business survives so that my staff have jobs to come back to,” he told the BBC.
“They are very real people with mortgages and families who have real worry.”
At Wednesday lunchtime the family-owned Lavery’s at Shaftesbury Square closed.
A spokesman said staff would all be paid as usual on Friday and they were in talks with their legal representatives as regard steps they could make in terms of the government’s steps.
The Executive has announced a range of measures including a rates holiday for business.
Colin Neill called for payroll support so that staff could continue to be paid.
Hospitality Ulster has launched a dedicated hotline for its members affected by the virus outbreak.
The service has been established with the support of MTB solicitors and will provide guidance on employment and contractual law.
“We recognise the severity of this situation and the wider impact this will have on society and will be doing everything in our power to help our employers in this unprecedented period,” Mr Neill said.
Colin Mitchell, Partner, MTB Solicitors added: “We understand that employers will have a range of questions they need answered and we want to answer these in a quick and efficient manner. As legal specialists, we will provide swift and important advice on the relevant employment and contractual issues and would encourage any employers with questions to give us a call.”
The hotline can be accessed by calling 07736284764.