Select Page

Keep Your Distance: Creative ways to socialize with boundaries in the pandemic era

From dining mannequins to tables with bumpers, restaurants and attractions around the world are using creative ways to ensure guests keep their distance.

Restaurants and bars around the world are starting to reopen, often at just 50% capacity. But how do you make a half-empty bar look buzzing? And how can owners ensure that diners stay a safe distance from one another? Here are five creative answers to the problem of socializing while social distancing.

Mannequins

Some enterprising owners are using mannequins to get bums on seats. The idea started in the US, where the three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington in Virginia is working with a local design company and a theatre to create elegantly dressed “dining mannequins” to fill the spaces between real-life guests. The Open Hearth restaurant in Taylors, South Carolina, chose a budget version: blow-up dolls ordered from Amazon. The idea has since spread to Europe.

In Austria, several Viennese bars and cafes have installed mannequins, including historic Café Central and cocktail bar Kleinod Prunkstück. Mannequins used in various restaurants in Vilnius, Lithuania, have a dual purpose: as well as filling tables, they also showcase fashions by local designers. Australia has a different spin on the idea: Five Dock Dining in Sydney has seats filled with cardboard cutouts of people, and is playing guest chatter over the speakers instead of music.

Hats

Café Rothe in Schwerin, northern Germany, has been issuing patrons with hats topped with three foam pool noodles in a T-shape – each float is 5 feet long, to ensure no one gets too close. Similar hats, made from balloons, have been spotted on visitors to Shiniuzhai national geological park in China’s Hunan province.

Sensors

Technology that alerts the wearer if others get too close is being developed to help people return to work safely. Gadgets range from hard hats for construction workers – that buzz if someone comes too near – to beeping bracelets for factory workers.

Such devices will also be useful in restaurants and at tourist attractions – the Duomo in Florence is giving visitors sensors to wear around their necks that beep softly, vibrate and flash when two people come within less than six feet of each other. Beaches in Spain are installing sensors on lampposts to monitor the number of people on a particular stretch; visitors can check an app to find quieter spots.

Greenhouses

The restaurant at Mediamatic, an arts centre in Amsterdam, is trialling five mini canalside greenhouses. Inside each is a table for two, at which people from the same household can dine, served by staff wearing face shields. The food is delivered on long wooden planks so waiters do not have to enter the greenhouse. The idea has inspired the owner of a pub in another watery location: the Norfolk Broads. The Lion at Thurne will have three greenhouses, each seating six, ready and waiting when pubs reopen in England.

Bumper tables

And finally … Fish Tales restaurant in Maryland has introduced “bumper tables,” Individual diners stand inside the circular tables, which are edged with giant inner tubes. The tables are on wheels, so customers can mingle without getting too close. Well, it is more fun than eating behind a shower curtain.

Rаchеl Dіxоn

Help deliver the independent journalism that the world needs, make a contribution of support to The Guardian.

The Milwaukee Independent began reporting on what was then referred to as the mysterious “Wuhan Virus” in January. Other local media did not picked-up on the story until many weeks later. Our early features focused on the economic impact, social issues, and health concerns long before other Milwaukee news organizations even mentioned the coronavirus. Over the following months, we have published more than 450 articles about the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of Milwaukee residents. This extensive body of work can be found on our COVID-19 Special Report page, a chronological index of links by month. Our editorial voice remains dedicated to informing the public about this health crisis for as long as it persists.
For medical resources, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 page or the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. All editorial content published by Milwaukee Independent can be found at mkeind.com/COVID19. With a mission of transformative journalism, our staff is free from commercial bias and are not influenced by corporate interests, political affiliations, or a public preferences that rewards clicks with revenue. As an influential publication that provides Milwaukee with quality journalism, our award-winning photojournalism and features have helped to achieve a range of positive social impact that enriches our community. Please join our effort by entrusting us with your contribution. Your Support Matters - Donate Now

About The Author

TheGuardian

Guardian US is the regional extension of The Guardian, a British daily newspaper originally known as the Manchester Guardian from 1821 to 1959. This article from theguardian.com is published under the limited redistribution rights of its open license terms. Syndicated courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.