Dining dummies help cafe-goers keep a fashionable distance in Vilnius


VILNIUS (Reuters) – Mannequins dressed in clown hats and couture frocks have taken up seats in restaurants in Lithuania’s capital, to coax real customers back after the coronavirus lockdown and help them out with social distancing.

Bernie ter Braak said he came up with the idea when he reopened his Cozy restaurant in Vilnius’ old town and saw how empty it looked.

Even when customers started coming back in, he had to obey restrictions and keep every second table clear, killing the atmosphere.

So he asked local designers to dress up some mannequins and seat them at the quarantined tables.

“When we had all the mannequins sitting in their places, at once it felt like a full restaurant, it gave a much better vibe,” the 47-year-old told Reuters. “We felt that, hey, it’s working!”

He encouraged other cafes and restaurants to join in to give the whole sector a boost. A total of 60 mannequins will be out on the town in 14 eateries over the next two weeks.

“Now you know, for sure, where you can sit and where you can’t,” said Odeta Plakiene as she drank tea at the Sugamour cafe, next to a dummy dressed in a short-sleeved black dress. “And it creates a good mood.”

The scheme is also helping the city’s fashion industry recover from the crisis. “I was setting up the mannequin up yesterday, and some people immediately asked to buy the dress,” designer Rimante Rimgailaite said.

Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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