FILE PHOTO: To ensure social distancing does not make diners feel isolated during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, mannequins clad in 1940s-era clothing occupy some tables at The Inn at Little Washington, a Michelin three-star restaurant, which plans to reopen soon in Washington, Virginia, U.S., May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
(Reuters) – It’s not your typical Michelin-starred feast experience, dining near life-size mannequins clad in glamorous 1940’s style. It could be considered quite unconventional but then again, so is almost everything else right now.
The Inn at Little Washington, a three Michelin-star restaurant located about 90 minutes west of Washington, D.C. and sprawled across 24 acres and charming gardens, reopened on Friday after nearly two months of closure as part of measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the new restrictions, the first phase of reopening can only serve customers food in the outdoor space on the porch. When it moves into the second phase, the restaurant will limit dining room seating to 50% of its usual capacity.
More than 100,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Over 1.7 million U.S. cases have been reported
As chef and owner Patrick O’Connell grappled with the new health restrictions, he had the theatrical idea of filling the empty seats in his opulent dining room area with glamorous post-war mannequins seemingly engaging in conversation or romantic actions.
At first glance some of these customers could seem a little stoic, with their vacant eyes and bygone poses. But Chef O’ Connell hopes when the dining area opens they will elicit smiles from patrons, even among those who may find the dummies a bit eerie.
“And so between each table, we have these very charming and alluring mannequins sort of acting out their own narrative and they’ll be distant table companions next door to you,” said O’Connell. “So the restaurant will be full of ambiance and it’ll look full.”
Reporting by Gershon Peaks and Temis Tormo; Writing by Diane Craft; Editing by Daniel Wallis