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U.S. restaurants using blow-up dolls, mannequins to enforce physical distancing

Restaurant in South Carolina uses blow up dolls to help with social distancing
WATCH: A South Carolina restaurant is keeping its customers at a safe social distance by using blow up dolls at empty tables.

Restaurants are having to get creative as they reopen amid physical distancing rules, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

At their Tuesday night reopening, South Carolina restaurant Open Hearth sat their live customers next to fancy dressed blow-up dolls.

“The G-rated kind,” owner Paula Starr Melehes clarified to Fox19, purchased from Amazon for around $140.

The purpose of the dolls was to make their restaurant feel a little more full, given they aren’t able to seat the same amount of people as they would’ve pre-pandemic, Melehes said.

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“Instead of using scary, yellow tape or roping off the empty tables, I thought, ‘We’re going to make this restaurant look full,'” she said. “They are very humorous, and they have nice faces. The ladies have pretty makeup on, and the wigs were gifts from different people.”

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They’re all weighted and dressed in used clothing so they don’t move around during their patrons’ dining experience.

“Golly, just having some customers that don’t talk too much, we love that idea,” a patron told Fox Carolina.

Melehes isn’t the first restaurant owner to use her imagination during the reopening process.

Coronavirus around the world: May 13, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: May 13, 2020

A three-Michelin star restaurant in Virginia called Inn at Little Washington is doing something similar, but with mannequins.

In Virginia, restaurants are allowed to seat diners at only 50 per cent capacity, so they’ll be placing mannequins around to make the space feel more full.

“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,” Patrick O’Connell, a chef at the restaurant, told a Fox 5 DC.

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“I’ve always had a thing for mannequins,” he said. “They never complain about anything, and you can have lots of fun dressing them up.”

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The restaurant, which closed in March for the first time in 42 years, shared a photo of their “full” tables on Instagram.

“Social distancing is ‘inn’ style,” the caption reads.

According to KIRO7-TV, the waiters will even be interacting with the mannequins to make the experience more authentic for the real patrons.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca