PUBS across Northern Ireland are not expected to reopen until August - but some may be allowed to open earlier if they have large beer gardens.
With Stormont coming under intense pressure from the hospitality industry to announce a restart date, Executive sources are predicting that it remains at least two months away.
This will be in the final and fifth stage of Northern Ireland's lockdown recovery plan.
But as our pictures show, drinkers have already been enjoying pints outside two well-known local bars - Daft Eddy's at Killinchy in Newtownards and the Morning Star in Belfast city centre.
Politicians are keen not to have disparity with the south, where bars are not set to reopen until August 10.
They fear that if restrictions are loosened before then - England has set a July 4 date - 'booze tourists' will flock to pubs in border towns and Belfast, with its transport links to Dublin.
Consideration is being given to allowing some bars in Northern Ireland with large beer gardens to reopen at the end of July. But like the lifting of every lockdown measure, this depends on the coronavirus R rate of infection remaining below 1.
"If we go too soon we'll get booze tourists from the south coming to bars near the border and in Belfast," said an Executive insider.
"We want to avoid that at all costs, that's why there will be parity with the south."
The latest Executive briefing from scientists puts Northern Ireland's R rate at around 0.8 to 0.9 - a slight increase in the past week, which could hamper the lifting of lockdown measures.
One person died here of Covid-19 yesterday, bringing the death toll to 522. A further 13 people tested positive for the virus, meaning an official total of 4,709 have been infected since the outbreak began. Another nine people have died from Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland bringing the total number of deaths there to 1,651.
The threat posed by the pandemic seemed to be the last thing on the minds of punters who spent Saturday enjoying pub-bought pints in the warm afternoon sunshine.
They were pictured outside Daft Eddy's on the shores of Strangford Lough and the Morning Star in the centre of Belfast, drinking just yards from the front doors.
Daft Eddy's owner Tamara MacLeod insisted the business is acting within the law, saying: "It's legal because we are serving them (drinks) in an unlicensed area. It's off-licence drinks and they can take them away with them.
"We've got an area of grass that isn't licensed. It isn't the bar or terraced area, so anywhere beyond that, they're taking it away with them and drinking it in an area of grass, really."
Adding to the growing belief that Northern Ireland's pubs will not officially reopen for at least another two months is an internal email from the Beannchor group telling staff to prepare for an August 10 restart.
The company, which owns the Merchant Hotel and a string of bars and restaurants, laid off 800 employees at the start of the Covid-19 crisis in March.
The email reads: "In the absence of a clear direction and an agreed date from the Executive, we have decided, after careful consideration, to begin undertaking the work that will enable us to reopen again on August 10."
The Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort, another of Northern Ireland's most exclusive hotel, restaurant and bar complexes, is aiming for a July 27 restart.
When pubs do finally reopen, they will see nothing like the scenes of shoulder-to-shoulder socialising that went on before Covid-19 decimated the trade.
Willie Jack, who owns the famous Duke of York pub and Harp Bar in Belfast, has told punters to prepare for something different.
He said: "We might only put in half the seats. There will be extra security required, and if we have a capacity of 400 we will allow less than half in, roughly 40%.
"The prices may have to go up to compensate because you are going to have more security. You will have to queue up outside in the air, at a distance apart, with footprint markers on the pavement, and a two-out/two-in rule."
Willie says Perspex screens around the counter to protect staff will become commonplace, along with hand sanitiser stations, and doors being left open to prevent the touching of surfaces.
He also cannot see live music being feasible until next year, and expects later opening times along with earlier closing times.
He added: "People won't be allowed to move tables. We won't be able to have big groups of young men together - there may be four, there may be six, but they cannot move into a big group.
"That means we aren't going to be able to cater for 30 stags coming over from Newcastle or 30 hens from Glasgow. That won't be possible, certainly not this year."
Like all other publicans, Willie is hoping that Government scientists reduce the current two-metre social distancing rule to one metre, which would allow more customers through his doors.
He is also pleading with the Executive to announce a reopen date to give businessmen like him "something to aim for".
Rates for the Duke of York and Harp Bar - two Belfast institutions - are an eye-watering £630,000 per year. Willie describes them as "being victims of their own success", and wants to see a cut in VAT from 20% to get the hospitality industry moving again.
"It's 13.5% in the south and pub owners there want it down to 5%. It's measures like that which will kick-start the economy," said Willie, who is also calling on local councils to licence "European-style" pavement drinking areas to further help.
The chilling impact of Covid-19 on pubs, restaurants and hotels means that 16,000 jobs in Northern Ireland are at risk, according to the chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill.
Frightening economic forecasts commissioned by the organisation found that two in five restaurants, one in four hotels, and one in seven pubs are in real danger of going bust.
Mr Neill believes there is no reason for the Executive not to announce a hospitality trade reopen date, and is convinced this can be brought forward because of safety changes made by owners.
He said: "They have us in stage five, along with full use of public transport. The Executive is basically saying we're in with the buses, and if you can't socially distance on a bus, you can't social distance in hospitality.
"But that's not true. We can bring in measures to socially distance, bring in measures to train our staff. So, we're saying to government: move us up the phases based on our plans, and not what you remember us by."
Mr Neill says scenes of drinking in packed pubs and back-to-back diners in busy restaurants are a thing of the past. "We're coming back under social distancing rules and we're going to have to adapt and try and survive in that world."