Ireland's nightlife was back with a bang last night as people flocked to pubs and restaurants now that restrictions are lifted.
Cities and towns around the country were thronged as people enjoyed the end of 8pm closing times.
Yesterday, it emerged that restaurants across the country had been inundated with so many booking requests since the lifting of restrictions that some have even reported their online booking facilities crashing.
One Cork restaurant was booked out for its 8pm sitting tonight within minutes of Friday’s announcement.
Other venues across the city reported that their website booking facilities crashed as people dashed to make online reservations following the announcement by An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin.
Phil Ryan, manager of Isaac’s restaurant on MacCurtain St in Cork City, said the phone was "hopping" immediately after last night’s announcement, with places for the restaurant’s 8pm sitting being sold out within 20 minutes. Between 75 and 80 people dined there last night during that sitting.
He said that online reservations are also already made for the next two weekends, while calls are still being received today by people wishing to book a table for tonight:
By 4pm on Saturday, many of Limerick’s most popular bars were already a hive of activity. Pharmacia, on Sarsfield Ave, announced they were open until 12.30am. Speaking on Saturday, manager Ger Devine said he was expecting a busy evening.
“We’ve been busy so far today and we're excepting to be mad for the night. Then we are facing into an extremely busy week of student events from Monday,” he said.
Mr Devine said they were absolutely delighted to be open, fully and freely, once more, following the announcement that the restrictions would be lifted, but added he was annoyed at how it was done, with little time given for publicans to prepare.
“But I guess we’ve come to expect that level of rashness from this Government,” he added.
Jack Costello, manager of The Locke Bar on George's Quay in Limerick said they too will be open until 12.30am.
“We’d expect it to be busy enough now later on, hopefully,” he said on Saturday.
Aisling Kelly, manager at Luigi Malone’s on Emmet Place in Cork said the restaurant’s website crashed for a moment on Friday night following the announcement. Yesterday afternoon, the restaurant was so busy that only people who had reserved tables could dine there.
She said: “There is a lightness in the atmosphere today.”
Spirits were also high in Dublin City centre this afternoon, with pubs and bars starting to get busy from lunchtime.
Daniel Smith, a barman at Grogans pub, said the atmosphere is "brilliant":
"To finally get back feels a bit surreal. Plenty of times during the last two years we didn't think we'd ever make this day, so to finally get back there is special."
Since 6am on Saturday, the hospitality sector no longer has to close at 8pm.
Requirements for Covid certificates to enter various premises have also been removed, while venues no longer have to put physical distancing measures in place.
Orders can now also be made at the bar counter, and the requirement for names and contact details of customers to be taken in hospitality has also been lifted.