Andy Rea, from Mourne Seafood Bar, Belfast, said he feared the popular Bank Street restaurant would close permanently
"When we had the daunting prospect of just closing, borrowing money...taking other factors into account - how long this could go on for and how severe it was - I just thought 'that's us'," he said.
"We did a credit report recently and we owed £100,000. We had no money coming in and had to borrow money to pay the staff's furlough as it took so long coming in.
"We're haemorrhaging a couple of grand a week. We've had to put up with the Primark fire and the carnage that caused and still continues to cause, and then this happens.
"What we've borrowed and owe out adds up to £200,000. Sometimes I think it would've been easier if the Primark fire had burnt Mourne out. But I'm not going to let this define me. I'm going to give this a proper go and work round the clock."
Andy said the 2 metre debate is the "stupidest thing ever".
"I can open up Mourne on a sunny day, people can go outside and I'm hoping to do half of my customers by using an outside area I've never used before," he said.
"But if I try inside, you're talking 20% capacity. If it's 2m you might as well keep it shut.
"I have to put Mourne on the map again. I'm under pressure. I have to start somewhere - but I can't make any money with that 2m rule."
Niall McKenna of Belfast restaurants James Street and Hadskis employs 75 people - almost 70 of them were furloughed.
"We looking into opening Hadskis in July but I don't want people to have to use face masks inside. I'd rather hold off until customers feel safe and staff enjoy working," he said.
"At the moment we're being very cautious; it's not just front of house, it's the chefs in the kitchen. Then we need to clean and sanitize after customers.
"It's all about managing how many people you can accommodate and working out if it's cost effective to be open. How many staff can we bring back, how many customers will get in? And are we actually making any money?
"Having said that, at no point during the lockdown did I think we would close, even though we've lost tens of thousands of pounds."
Mr McKenna said "the next 18 months will be very tricky".
"We'll have to be unbelievably cautious," he said.
"The one thing you don't want is for this virus to return because the worst case scenario is another lockdown.
"You do have to open and take money, but I'm all about being careful. I'm a workaholic but you have to look at the big picture."
He believes restoring trade "is going to be a slow process going forward".
It's about understanding social distancing and respect, and it will be down to whether the public feel comfortable," he said.
"If people aren't enjoying themselves they're going to stop coming out."
Mark Beirne, who owns six outlets, shut both The Jailhouse and Henry's in Belfast on March 18 and is planning to reopen them on July 3.
"It was always in the back of my mind that we would never re-open but with government aid and other assistance we were able to put a package in place for the next 18 months because we don't see business coming back properly for a long time," he said.
"Our premises are very much tourist driven. Our offering is going to be the same, we're going to try and get business back but within social distancing guidelines, obviously."
Mr Beirne estimated that he has lost "£1m in turnover" for the restaurant and adjoining pub since the start of the lockdown and said he hopes the 2 metre social distancing rule will soon be relaxed to 1 metre.
"We'll have to stay with 2m until we're told otherwise but it's going to be hard to manage and police," he said, adding that the restoration of trade will, in part, be down to marketing.
"It's about whether people perceive our venues to be safe," he said.
"We'll have one-way systems for the toilets and we'll do as much as we can but customers will have to do their bit too.
"Capacity numbers will dictate how much space you have. Spreading out tables will cut our capacity in half at the very least. We're also hearing that it may be 2m for six weeks after opening. It's all going to come down to social distancing rules."
Paul Cunningham from Brunel's Restaurant, Newcastle, Co Down, closed his doors on March 19 and will reopen on July 3.
"I always knew we would reopen because I've worked too hard to let this place close; I've devoted my life to it," he said.
Not only has he has lost "around £60,000 a month in takings" - or £180,000 - since he was forced to close almost three months ago, there are "ongoing costs to factor in too".
"Around a third of our summer trade comes from American golfers, who aren't coming this year and might not even come next year," he said. "We also get lots of tourists...are people going to come back next year?
"Who knows how long the after effects of Covid-19 will last."
Mr Cunningham said social distancing should be relaxed from two metres to one.
"We need scientific evidence to explain the 2m rule," he said.
"We seat 65 in the restaurant. Two metres means getting 25 in comfortably, with one metre it's 45. That makes a serious difference in turnover, which means I can keep all 20 of my staff," he adds.
"I've got six chefs; if I can only seat 25 people I can only have three chefs."
Going forward, he predicts three distinct attitudes to restaurants.
"A third of people won't eat out for a while, another third will be dying to eat out and drink Champagne and the remainder will only go out for a special occasion," he said.
"Rebuilding customer confidence will take a while."
Stevie Haller, who closed Home Restaurant, Belfast, on March 16, will reopen on July 3, although he feared it wouldn't happen
"Anyone in the restaurant business would be foolish to think there wasn't a chance that they may have to close," he said.
"In terms of takings, not profit, we've lost about £350,000 so far in lockdown.
"The second busiest month for us after December is August. By the time we reopen and are back in it'll be August and we still don't know what we're opening up to. Will the public have enough confidence to come out?"
Mr Haller said he is "really blessed" because he can still "do decent numbers" with the two metre social distancing rule because Home is a spacious restaurant.
"The World Health Organisation is saying one metre is safe; if it's reduced from two metres then I can give my staff more hours," he said.
When restaurants reopen, Mr Haller said he anticipates there will be "a bit of a rush" to eat out but he added that it "may fizzle out quite quickly".
"Home was a seven days a week lunch and dinner operation," he said.
"But right now we're planning for lunch and dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday when we go back. We'll see how that goes, then if we feel we can open any other days we'll bolt those on."
Glen Wheeler, from 28 Darling Street, Enniskillen, said that being forced to close the business he put his life savings into "scared the absolute life" out of him.
"The Tuesday before lockdown we won three awards at the Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards and then three days later we were closed," said Mr Wheeler, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife.
"It was very scary at the start; the uncertainty of not knowing what's ahead of us and wondering if we would or could reopen again.
"At the higher end of fine dining restaurants the margins are so fine we were having to rethink everything, including if this is what we want to go back and do."
He added: "It's great to be able to reopen on July 3 but I'm scared of how we'll fare in the next couple of months because nobody knows if there'll be a second wave, or if people will come out? We're going into the unknown."
Mr Wheeler said they have lost "between £60,000 and £90,000" following their compulsory closure, adding they'd "be lucky to break even the rest of the year." He also said social distancing would make or break them.
"It's very simple - if it's two metres we don't open," he said.
Browns in Town, Londonderry, owner Ian Orr closed all four of his restaurants on March 20 and hasn't decided on reopening yet.
"When we closed I didn't think it would be forever and I haven't at any point thought it's the end for us," he said.
Nevertheless, Mr Orr said his losses so far amount to "tens of thousands of pounds".
Altogether, he employs between 80 and 100 people, with 25 of them at Browns in Town, and he said that most of his staff have been furloughed for the past three months.
Referring to the ongoing debate over social distancing, Mr Orr said the two metre rule makes his eateries financially unviable.
"Basically, if it's a 2m rule we'll lose money by opening," he said.
"But if it's one metre we could work with that as we'd have 70% of occupancy then.
"We're definitely aiming to have Browns in Town open by July 3 but fingers crossed we get them to agree on the 1m rule before then."
Going forward, Mr Orr said he hoped the staycation market would make up for lost trade.
"Browns in Town is normally busy with tourists but unfortunately that's gone now," he said.
"But as people are unlikely to be going on holiday this year we're hopeful we'll get local business from them now staying at home."
He added: "Our number one goal has always been to reopen all four restaurants - and we will."
Kiera Duddy closed The Pickled Duck, Londonderry, in March. She has two different premises - The Cafe on the Square and The Cafe Out of Town
"A couple of weeks ago we started operating a takeaway at Greenhaw Road from Thursday to Sunday to keep the name alive," she said. "The other one has an outdoors seating area in a courtyard; but if it wasn't for that I don't know if we'd be reopening on July 3, especially with the 2m rule."
She admitted that she has reservations about reopening the town centre venue.
"From April until after Halloween, there are bus loads of tourists every day, which is a good turnover point," Ms Duddy said.
"Now, without that, and with offices working from home, we don't know if it's going to be profitable."
She revealed that being shut for almost three months means she's "lost tens of thousands of pounds, never mind the money I've had to spend on getting set up again".
And while she understands the two metre rule "for safety", she said "in terms of getting bums on seats you would need 1m".
"Once the good food is back and everyone is kitted up and feeling safe I hope everything will work out," she said.
Ms Duddy added: "The margins are going to be really tight and it will take time to restore people's confidence but it's a bonus to reopen in the summer."
Melanie Breslin, shut Primrose on the Quay, Derry, during the first week of March and hopes to reopen on July 3.
"As soon as it happened, I started doing online baking tutorials," she said.
"We had a large restaurant that went out of business last year and I was determined that it wasn't going to happen again."
She added: "We also started a takeaway service a fortnight ago."
She said the three-month lockdown has cost them "up to £180,000" but added that their landlord "was an absolute star who gave us three months rent free".
As "a very small premises", Primose currently seats 45 people and Mrs Breslin says the 2 metre rule will make things "extremely difficult".
"It will probably be impossible for us to operate with two metres social distancing so we're adapting the whole restaurant with dividers," she said. "Luckily my brother-in-law has his own construction company and he's building a beautiful, big glass extension outside, right on the riverfront, and that will take the restaurant back up to full capacity because we'll have extra seating. We got planning permission for it three years ago but we never used it. It was to take us to a 70-seater but now it will take us back up to normal."
She said she has "taken all eight of my staff back off furlough" and is hoping business will soon pick up.
"It's never going back to the way it was; but we're ready for a new normal," she added.
Abdul Rob, Bangla Indian restaurant, Bangor, which has been only offering a takeaway service said they re-open on July 3.
"At the beginning we were very worried that the business might close down," he said.
"But then we got a government grant and we were able to furlough seven of our 13 staff which prevented us from having to shut the place. Over the last three months I have lost half my takings every week, which amounts to around £60,000."
Mr Rob said he's worried about serving meals safely to customers.
"The restaurant is being extended upstairs which means we won't have a problem with either one or two metres," he said.
"But we need government advice on staff safety, which is the most important thing. Already they use hand sanitisers, plastic gloves and the counter will be protected by glass when customers go to pay.
"It's very hard to know whether people will rush back to restaurants but Northern Ireland is showing positive signs over recent weeks in terms of a reduced number of deaths from Covid-19," he said.
"I'm recovering from a heart operation and when I've been out walking in the park I've seen a lot of family gatherings and people out having barbecues so I'm feeling positive that business might pick up fairly quickly. So I'm cautiously optimistic."