There have been pleas for a financial survival package for the hospitality sector as publicans said they feel "hung out to dry" after an order to shut for four weeks.
The hospitality trade - which includes pubs and restaurants - was told by the Executive on Wednesday that it must shut from 6pm on Friday for all services except food takeaway and delivery.
Off-licences and supermarkets will remain open and will still be able to sell alcohol but only until 8pm. Hotels were not mentioned specifically, but reports suggested they will also close.
Trade union Unite said the Executive must come up with a full package of wage support for workers in the sector - many of whom were being paid at 80% of their salaries during lockdown under the furlough scheme.
Neil Moore from Unite said: "For the second time in six months hospitality workers have been hung out to dry. Many of our members were forced into debt during the previous period of closure when they received a bare 80% of what were already low wages.
"This pittance will force many more into poverty and struggling to put food on the table. We have had members on the phone having to cancel fuel orders; worried about paying their mortgages or rent never mind how they can deliver a Christmas for their kids."
Drink-only pubs have only been trading for three weeks after reopening following lockdown. Eugene Kelly (62), the owner of The Slemish Bar in Ballymena, said: "I can't help but feel that we have been hung out to dry. It's a bit unfair as they're keeping off-licences open, and people can buy as much drink as they want until 8pm."
Trade had been down by up to 40% since reopening with Covid measure.
He said he was not sure if he would be able to keep all staff on after Christmas.
"I've had this pub for 33 years after my father Tom died at the age of just 56. My two children worked along with me part-time but they chose other careers, and I'm glad. There's no room for them and they wouldn't be able to make a living at this any more."
Philip Woods, owner of The Square Bar in Dungannon, said he supported the measures taken by the Executive "for the greater good". But he added: "We'd been closed six months, open for three weeks, now we have to close again. We did a fair bit of work before we reopened. I spent maybe the better part of £8,500 on that though I did get the initial grant of £10,000.
"But there's uncertainty about what will happen in a month's time. Maybe if the R number drops the closure will be extended because it will be seen to be working. But if necessary I would support lockdown again. It's a matter of sacrificing the economy for health, and they're both necessary, but you do have to choose one or the other."
Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said the decision has left businesses reeling.
He warned: "The consequence today is thousands upon thousands of job losses, and I do not say that lightly. People do not know where to turn today."
He said Boris Johnson needs to step in with extra support during the industry "crisis", and warned hundreds of businesses do not know whether they will survive. "We are in freefall and we do not know where the bottom is," he warned.
Stephen Meldrum is the NI Hotels Federation president and general manager of the Grand Central Hotel, which opened in 2018. He said: "At this moment in time we actually do not know where we sit. We are almost between a rock and a hard place.
"We have not been mandated to close. Without being mandated to close we are not able to avail of financial interventions, be it from Westminster or our local Executive."
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said there are "no easy solutions or simple answers". He said that "socioeconomic deprivation, unemployment, poverty shortens and costs lives".
"And that is why these decisions made by the Executive are so very difficult - because the Executive is seeking to balance all of those factors," he said.
Strict new restrictions, including the closure of the hospitality and close contact service sectors and an extended holiday break for schools, have come into force in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus in Northern Ireland.