Diners at restaurant reopening can get social with dressed-up mannequins

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(CNN) — When a three Michelin-star restaurant in Virginia opens its doors back up from the COVID-19 pandemic, reservations will be made for mannequins.

The Inn at Little Washington — an inn and restaurant about an hour and a half west of Washington, D.C. — plans to begin reopening its indoor seating May 29, a spokesman for the restaurant Charlie Dougiello said. Like many restaurants across the U.S., its staff is navigating how to provide a full dining experience while complying with measures to keep patrons safe.

So to fill out the restaurant, which will be kept at 50% capacity for social distancing purposes, they — naturally — thought of mannequins.

“I’ve always had a thing for mannequins — they never complain about anything and you can have lots of fun dressing them up,” Patrick O’Connell, chef and proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington, said in a statement.

The mannequins will be posed as couples dressed in a 1940s style to capture a post-World War II celebration. They will be seated at tables among guests to maintain social distancing as well as provide a laugh and a good picture, Dougiello said.

To ensure the mannequins were dressed their best and on theme, the restaurant teamed up with a local theater.

“When The Inn at Little Washington reached out with the idea to costume mannequins, we thought it was a fun and creative way for them to conform to social distancing guidelines,” said Signature Theatre’s Managing Director Maggie Boland in a statement. “We jumped at the chance to collaborate with another of Virginia’s great cultural destinations in support of their reopening.”

The Inn is known for being “reverently irreverent,” with the cheese specialist pushing a mooing cow cart and the dining room dress code specifying “no wet bikinis,” Dougiello said.

But, while adding an element of fun, the mannequins really hope to provide some of what has been lacking as many Americans seek connection in an isolating pandemic.

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

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