Virginia restaurant’s creepy plan to use mannequins to enforce social distancing gets mixed response

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A Virginia restaurant got some serious social media pushback after it announced how it planned to enforce social distancing when it reopens this Friday.

The Inn at Little Washington unveiled a plan that almost instantly conjured up “creepy” feelings online as reactions poured in to the idea of dressed-up mannequins being used to fill space at empty tables.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

Chef Patrick O’Connell reportedly came up with the ill-fated idea as a way to comply with the state’s social distancing rule and requirements that restaurants only serve customers at 50 percent capacity, according to a Washingtonian magazine story published on Tuesday.

“I think it would do people a world of good to reduce their anxiety level when they come out to a place which is still unaffected, because if you watch your television, you think that there isn’t such a place under a bubble,” O’Connell, who started the Inn over four decades ago, said.

Washington, Virginia, where the three-Michelin-star property is located, has reportedly not had any confirmed coronavirus cases but Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s phase one” reopening in the state mandates that the outdoor patios used by the establishment can be filled only to 50 percent capacity.

The Washingtonian reported:

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. Here’s hoping the actual diners don’t have any doll phobias.


But while O’Connell may have loved his idea, it was nothing short of terrifying for many who took to Twitter to react.

“Are they going to come alive at night and kill me?” co-host of “The View” Meghan McCain tweeted.

“I hope they’re not pouring them bad wine, or they’ll haunt our dreams,” Townhall editor and a Fox News contributor Guy Benson said a tweet.

Slate correspondent Jordan Weissmann tweeted that “this is going to feel like a horror movie,” while Bloomberg News’s Derek Wallbank wondered: “Does the Michelin guide take away stars for creepy or nah?”

There were some, however, who thought the idea was rather “cool.”


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