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The Shulchan Aruch 177:2 rules that one who removes the bread from the table must make a new beracha on whatever he eats for the rest of the meal:

ודברים הבאים לאחר סעודה קודם ברכת המזון שהיה מנהג בימות חכמי הגמרא שבסוף הסעודה היו מושכים ידיהם מן הפת ומסירים אותו וקובעים עצמם לאכול פירות ולשתות כל מה שמביאים אז לפניהם בין דברים הבאים מחמת הסעודה בין דברים הבאים שלא מחמת הסעודה טעונים ברכה בין לפניהם ובין לאחריהם דהמוציא וברכת המזון אין פוטרתן אלא מה שנאכל תוך עיקר הסעודה ודין זה האחרון אינו מצוי בינינו לפי שאין אנו רגילין למשוך ידינו מן הפת עד ברכת המזון:

Things that come after the meal before Birchas HaMazon - it was the practice in the times of the Sages of the Gemara that at the end of the meal they would withdraw their hands from the bread, and would remove it, and they would set themselves to eat fruits and to drink - everything that they bring out then, both things that are brought because of the meal and things that are brought not because of the meal, need a beracha both before and after them, because the HaMotzi and Birchas HaMazon only exempt what is eaten during the main meal. This last halacha is not common by us, since we are not accustomed to withdraw our hands from the bread until Birchas HaMazon.

Why is this considered a case that never happens (other that Erev Pesach)? At wedding meals, for example, they usually serve bread at the beginning of the meal, and for the second course there is no bread to be found. Or one who doesn't have a lot of challa, when the bread is finished he continues his meal. And dessert often is served after the table is cleared. Is this just a change in the practice from hundreds of years ago, and we really should apply this halacha, or is there some reason why it doesn't apply to theses cases.

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  • The Shulchan Aruch knew about Erev Pesach... – Double AA Mar 15 at 21:47
  • See Magen Avraham – Joel K Mar 15 at 21:48
  • @JoelK though on EP there might actually be akirat hashulchan kifshuto even nowadays – Double AA Mar 15 at 22:06
  • To clarify, the first two cases are when the people eating the meal don't have any bread left to eat, ignoring the aspect of clearing the table. The third case is clearing the table. – Mordechai Mar 16 at 5:21
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Many Rabbis say it is indeed a problem at weddings. Rav S.Z. Aurbach and Rabbi Scheinberg who are quoted as saying weddings are not an issue, is because the removal of the bread/tables was not because they are in fact done with the bread, but rather for a different reason, the dancing. See the picture from the Dirshu Mishna Berurah below. But certainly when people are done with the bread because they are done with the bread this law still exists in full.

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See Biur Halacha on that Shulchan Aruch who discusses the case of large meals where they would clear off the bread from the table and bring out fruit and dessert. He says that this case would depend on one's understanding of which action requires making a new bracha on the food. While some opinions say that removing the bread is enough, many others refer to removing the actual table.

And while he seems to lean towards the commentators who only require removing bread, he doesn't conclude that one should actually make a blessing in such a situation. If anything, he quotes the language of the chayei adam that the minhag is to be lenient. It would seem that he would follow the general rule of "safek brachos le'hakel" (in case of a doubtful need to make a blessing, don't make it.) He actually rules this way later on in the same biur halacha.

Thus, in almost all of our meals nowadays, we generally stay sitting at the table and merely clear off the bread. We don't usually remove the actual tables.

The question comes up regarding weddings, when they do remove the tables after the meal and then, later on during the dancing, bring out desserts. In this case, as mentioned in another answer here, there is a machlokes among contemporary poskim whether to require another brocha or not. (I believe Rav Yisrael Belsky zatza"l also sided that a new bracha was required, in a teshuva printed in Shulchan Levi. I'll add a source when I can verify this.)

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