Coronavirus: Restaurants use mannequins, dolls to fill ‘social distancing’ voids

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As restaurants in the United States prepare to reopen following shutdowns due to coronavirus preventative measures, owners are using mannequins and dolls to fill empty seats to maintain social distancing guidelines.

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A three-Michelin-star restaurant called Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, about 90 minutes away from Washington D.C., has seated mannequins dressed in 1940’s-style attire to “add a touch of whimsy” and help with social distancing when customers return for indoor dining later this month, according to the Associated Press.

“When we needed to solve the problem of social distancing and reducing our restaurant’s occupancy by half, the solution seemed obvious — fill it with interestingly dressed dummies,” chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell said in a statement. “This would allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops.”

Business restrictions will be eased in some parts of the state on Friday but they will only be allowed to serve dine-in customers in an outdoor space. Restaurants may begin indoor dining by the end of month.

“We’re all craving to gather and see other people right now,” O'Connell added. "They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.”

A restaurant in South Carolina uses blow up dolls to maintain social distancing measures. (Screengrab)
A restaurant in South Carolina uses blow up dolls to maintain social distancing measures. (Screengrab)

Another restaurant called “Open Hearth” in the state of South Carolina used inflatable dolls dressed in real clothes and donated wigs to enforce the state’s social distancing guidelines, according to a Reuters report.

“It’s a concept that is not frightening to people and it gives them something light to think about instead of virus and ‘Xes’ everywhere,” restaurant owner Paula Starr Melehes told Reuters.

A video report shows the dolls resembling men and women ‘seated’ at every other table to keep a distance between customers.

As different states in the US begin easing their measures, the death toll and coronavirus infection numbers continue to increase. The US has so far confirmed over 1.4 million cases, over 85,000 deaths and 246,414 recoveries.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the US over the past several weeks to protest stay-at-home orders as governors clashed with President Donald Trump over reopening the economy.

- With AP and Reuters

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