SC restaurant uses blow-up dolls to make sure customers social distance

TAYLORS, S.C. — A South Carolina restaurant has come up with a unique way to ensure social distancing.

With dine-in service available at Open Hearth in Greenville County for the first time since March, the owners, Paula Starr Melehes and her husband, Jimmy, wanted to make the restaurant look as full as they could, WYFF-TV reported.

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So they ordered 10 blow-up dolls and dressed them up like patrons, even giving them wigs to wear.

“Instead of using scary, yellow tape or roping off the empty tables, I thought, ‘We’re going to make this restaurant look full,’” Melehes said.

She ordered the blow-up dolls from Amazon -- “the G-rated kind,” she said -- dressed them up and has them seated at all of the tables that won’t be occupied by real customers.

“My grandson told me they look kind of creepy,” Melehes said. “But, I think, when people walk in, they’re going to laugh.”

The owners said they are following social distancing guidelines by spacing out customers, using disposable menus, and ensuring employees wear masks.

South Carolina is one of several states that started easing their restrictions about two weeks ago.

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The family-run restaurant has been in business for 61 years, since Melehes said her father-in-law first opened it.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure we do this right,” Melehes said. “We just didn’t want the virus to be what shuts us down.”