Coronavirus Era: Inn at Little Washington Reopens with Dining Mannequins to Implement Social Distancing

Coronavirus Era: Inn at Little Washington Reopens with Dining Mannequins to Implement Social Distancing
Inn at Little Washington

A popular Virginia restaurant is reopening after the coronavirus shutdown, and visitors who come to eat at the Inn at Little Washington will share the space with mid-century mannequin diners seated to implement social distancing.

The Inn at Little Washington, which will start taking reservations on May 29, is complying with Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening regulations to have only a 50 percent capacity at all restaurants. 

While some restaurants will be eliminating tables to put distance between patrons, the Inn, which has three Michelin stars, is using artistic settings at each mannequin-occupied table to portray scenes from the 1940s, from one man on bended knee proposing to his sweetheart, to couples on dates and businessmen seeming to be making a deal.

Town and Country Magazine reported on the creative comeback: 

Chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell, a James Beard award-winner, is conceptualizing these intricate scenes to comply with capacity regulations, implemented in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Inn is working with two local businesses to stage the tables. For authenticity, Signature Theatre, a Tony-award winning non-profit professional theater company, will help create the scenes and Design Foundry, team of carpenters, painters, designers, fabricators, will facilitate construction.

The mannequin-filled reopening also comes alongside a new menu. O’Connell is still working out the details, but we know it will feature the restaurant’s signature whimsy. Even before the mannequins, the Inn was known for its irreverent take on dining, from its cheese specialist with a mooing cow cart, speaking exclusively in puns, to the dining room dress code: no wet bikinis.

“O’Connell says that Washington, Virginia—where the Inn is located—currently has no Covid-19 cases that he knows of,” the Washingtonian reported. “Despite the fact that many guests are coming from the DC area, he hopes to keep it that way. His staff is conducting deep cleanings involving infrared light. And he has created custom-made masks bearing Marilyn Monroe smiles and George Washington chins.”

“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 said in the Washingtonian report.

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