Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has called on Northern Ireland's local councils to take a flexible approach to the use of on-street seating as they struggle to maintain physical and social distancing.
Her call to councils comes as hospitality sector leaders warn many businesses may not be able to survive if the two-metre social distancing lockdown restriction remains in place.
Using pavements, parking bays and nearby green spaces for table service for cafes and bars, beer gardens and similar outdoor areas, could be a lifeline for hospitality businesses hit hard by lockdown.
Minister Mallon said: "Businesses and workers across the north are now planning how they can get back to work safely and how they can adjust to the new challenges of Covid-19.
"I will be keeping this situation under review over the coming months with continued engagement with businesses.
"For now, this change will hopefully provide some support for the hospitality industry as we kick start the economy and plan for recovery," she said.
But the Minister also warned the needs of people with mobility issues must be properly considered and addressed when deciding on whether to allow on-street seating for cafes and bars.
Hospitality Ulster chief Colin Neill welcomed the Minister's move to green-light the use of on-street seating.
"Outdoor space could be the key as to whether many businesses will reopen at all," he said.
"I hope councils will understand the gravity of the situation we're in, and look for opportunities to be flexible on this issue.
"Hospitality businesses need this space, and will need it for the foreseeable future. It's key that this is implemented quickly."
He said it was important that the needs of people with mobility issues were taken into account.
"It's better for this to be done with council regulation, rather than people doing it in desperation as they try to save their businesses," Mr Neill said.