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Social Distancing Restaurant Gets Real Weird With It

By Kristy Puchko | Social Media | May 13, 2020 |

By Kristy Puchko | Social Media | May 13, 2020 |


As businesses begin to explore how to re-open responsibly, they’re faced with the challenge of how to keep customers safe. In grocery stores, we’re seeing measures that include mandatory masks, markers on floors to encourage distancing at check out, and a limited amount of customers admitted at once. Some restaurants have operated strictly on take-out or delivery options. However, as governors begin to lift restrictions, American restaurants must figure out how to have an eat-in dining experience that can maintain social distancing. In Sweden, caution tape has been used to mark out-of-bounds seating. Some restaurants might remove tables to create the needed space. However, one Virginia eatery has a unique plan: mannequins.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has announced that restaurants can re-open on May 29, but only at 50% capacity. Caution tape just won’t due for the swanky aesthetic of the luxurious three-Michelin-star Inn at Little Washington, which DC Eater notes is “famous for show-stopping presentations of its haute American tasting menus.”

As such, Washingtonian’s Ann Limpert reports chef Patrick O’Connell opted for a more chic (and strange) approach:

Instead of letting tables sit vacant, the whimsical chef plans to outfit his dining rooms with mannequins. That’s right, life-size human dolls—kind of like that scene in Home Alone when Kevin throws a mannequin holiday party to fool the burglars. The chef (who majored in drama in college) has been working with Shirlington’s Signature Theatre to get the faux humans costumed in 1940s-era garb. Servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening.

The playful plan may be odd, but it’s getting the re-opening of the Inn at Little Washington plenty of free publicity and possibly an unexpected new breed of clientele.

It might even spark a trend.

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Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Inn at Little Washington