The future of our hospitality industry "remains on a knife-edge", according to an industry expert as the Executive is expected to make an announcement on curfews this week.
A 10pm closing time is to be introduced in England from next Monday.
The announcement came as drink-only pubs here are set to reopen their doors for the first time in six months.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the idea of introducing a curfew on licensed premises was "pertinent" and that the Executive would make a decision tomorrow.
She admitted this would be a challenge for the industry, but that we were still facing "extreme times".
There are fears that if a similar measure is introduced it could be counter-productive to the Executive's efforts to curb the rising number of Covid-19 cases.
Stephen Magorrian, managing director of the Horatio Group, which runs four pubs across Belfast and north Down, warned that a 10pm closing time would cost the industry hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time when businesses were trying desperately to get back on their feet.
He said that stringent restrictions on trading could lead to further job losses in the sector.
"It does look like there's a strong possibility some sort of curfew will be brought in," he added.
"But I would have real concerns over the time of 10pm if Northern Ireland was to follow the lead of England. We have to remember we're on an island. The time in the south of Ireland is 11.30pm, and to me that works - 10pm is too early."
Mr Magorrian heads up the operation that runs Horatio Todd's and The Northern Whig in Belfast, plus Molly Brown's in Newtownards and Denvir's in Downpatrick,
"I can see that could create issues," he said. "There would be nothing to stop people leaving the bars and calling into an off-licence before going to a house. Is that not what we're trying to prevent?
"We know things have to change and we won't be going back to the way we were before March, but we need to be certain whatever measures are put in place are not counter-productive." He said all the efforts to kick-start the hospitality industry could be undone if the wrong decision was made.
"Forget pubs and look at restaurants," he said.
"If there's a 10pm curfew it's going to be a race against time to get people served and off the premises in time.
"We'll be rushing people out, otherwise we would be a target for trigger happy officials.
"We're still getting used to the new way the world is working, but the industry needs to protect jobs.
"Thankfully we managed to get our business up and running in July and we have not lost any jobs.
"But the fact that some of those jobs could go can't be ruled out.
"That extra hour in the evening might not seem like much, but across all the bars and restaurants it amounts to an awful lot of custom, which the industry needs right now to stay afloat."
While many pubs get ready to throw open their doors for the first time in six months today, there are still some that will remain closed.
Venues which rely on live music, like the Duke of York in Belfast, one of several in the city owned by Willie Jack, will bide their time until the situation becomes clearer on what will and won't be allowed.
With First Minister Arlene Foster warning this week that a return to lockdown cannot be ruled out, the owner of one west Belfast pub that will reopen says the industry will not be able to survive another lockdown.
Gerard Keenan of Dan's Bar on the Springfield Road said that while there is relief at finally being able to welcome customers back, it's tempered by fears that the lifting of restrictions might not last.
"We're getting there slowly but surely, but we are being wary of any future restrictions that are going to be put in place," he said.
"There's a concern over closing times, we're not sure what they are going to be yet. Today there's just relief that we can get the doors open.
"It's been six long months and we need this to stick. There's no way we can go back to a lockdown situation.
"It's already been so hard to stay afloat and we'll have to limit the customers to 40, so that will limit our business.
"But the customers will be made aware from the outset that unless they follow the guidelines then pubs like this might not be here in the future.
"I can't even bring myself to think about another lockdown."