Hello Dolly! Stylish mannequins liven up Vilnius restaurants

VILNIUS (AFP) – Some wear bags over their heads and others stylish black fedoras but all are dressed to the nines as they silently wait in restaurants and cafes across Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.

Seated at tables spaced four metres (yards) apart, dozens of elegant mannequins are intended to help clients dine at a safe social distance, and perhaps, also to up their style.

Owners of Vilnius restaurants and fashion boutiques hit upon the idea after authorities further eased lockdown measures and allowed eateries and bars to operate indoors from Monday.

But customers have since been slow to return indoors after dining al fresco resumed earlier this month. “Under regulations, we can serve every second table but that created a feeling of emptiness in the restaurant,” Bernie Ter Braak, the owner of Cozy restaurant, told AFP.

“At first, I thought to put dolls or teddy bears but then I thought of well-dressed mannequins.

A designer from ANOTHER UNICORN poses with a mannequin used to provide social distancing at a restaurant in Vilnius. PHOTO: AFP

“I reached out to nearby fashion boutiques to showcase their collections, and they happily joined the initiative,” he added.

Designer Diana Paukstyte said it was a winning combination. “I’m glad that more people will see my avant-garde clothes, hopefully the mannequins will also attract more customers to restaurants: we support them, they support us,” she told AFP.

Over 60 male and female mannequins dressed up in fashions from 19 local boutiques will have round-the-clock reserved indoor seating at 14 of the capital’s restaurants and cafes, according to Vilnius city hall.

At each table, clients can also find business cards letting them know where to buy any new threads that might catch their eye.

Mayor Remigijus Simasius called the initiative “a perfect match of communal spirit and creativity working side by side which also brings us some tangible material benefits”.

Lithuania, a Baltic state of 2.8 million people, has only 1,593 coronavirus cases, including 61 deaths.

It joined neighbours Estonia and Latvia to reopen shared borders last Friday, allowing citizens to move freely for business and pleasure in a travel bubble after two months of coronavirus restrictions.