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15 Weird and Wacky Ways People Are Solving Social Distancing Dilemmas

These social distancing measures are certainly inventive (and sometimes hilarious).

Now that many countries around the world and some U.S. states are emerging from lockdown, the problem remains that things can’t simply go back to normal. The coronavirus pandemic is changing everything from flying and hotel stays to the way restaurants and bars operate. One of the biggest changes is the need for social distancing, which helps reduce person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Though, how far away you need to distance yourself from others depends on who you ask, the CDC recommends avoiding group gatherings and staying at least six feet away from other people. Many governments have imposed restrictions on restaurants, bars, parks, and other places where people tend to gather, limiting capacity by 50% or more. As a result, some business owners have found creative ways to cope.

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Amsterdam’s Mediamatic Foundation found a cute and romantic way to let couples and small groups of up to four people who have been stuck at home enjoy a meal at their plant-based restaurant Eten. Inside a series of miniature glass greenhouses overlooking a canal, they’ve placed a table for two, allowing diners to ensure they won’t be exposed to anyone else. Servers wearing face shields deliver dishes using long wooden boards so they don’t have to enter the greenhouses and risk contagion.

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Pool Noodle Hats

Café & Konditorei Rothe in the German town of Schwerin reopened in mid-May with a clever way of getting people to stay 1.5 meters away from each other: the café’s owners gave customers funny-looking straw hats with two pool noodles affixed to the top. “This was the perfect method to keep customers apart—and a fun one,” owner Jacqueline Rothe told CNN, calling it “a perfect gag” and adding “our customers were really into it.”

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Inner Tube Tables

In Ocean City, Maryland, the owners of Fish Tales Bar & Grill came up with the idea of using inner tube tables on wheels as a playful way to let people drink safely while social distancing. The custom-made tables have a hole in the middle where customers stand and a space for placing food and drinks. “Our core is creativity, our core is crazy and fun and re-engineering normal things,” Erin Cermak, whose company, Revolution Event Design & Production, created the tables, told The Baltimore Sun.

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Mannequins in 1940s Garb

How would you like to dine surrounded by elegant patrons in 1940s garb? Rather than removing tables from the Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington, which would make the restaurant look forlorn and empty, Chef Patrick O’Connell decided to fill half of the tables with mannequins dressed up in glamorous midcentury outfits. According to the Washingtonian, “servers will be instructed to pour them wine and ask about their evening.”

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Mannequins on Top of the Bar

A new Vienna cocktail bar is using mannequins too. Kleinod Prunstück, which debuted in January 2020, has reopened post-lockdown with 30 mannequins spread out among the tables and even on top of the bar as a reminder to visitors not to gather in crowds. The mannequins don chic clothes by Vienna boutique Philipp Maly.

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Blow-Up Dolls

A budget-friendly alternative to mannequins, blow-up dolls dressed in clothes and wigs occupy some of the tables at the Open Hearth restaurant in South Carolina. “It’s a concept that’s not frightening to people and it gives them, once again, something light to think about instead of virus and x’s everywhere,” the restaurant’s owner Paula Starr Melehes told NBC.

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Stuffed Pandas

If mannequins and blow-up dolls are too creepy, perhaps you’d prefer to dine with adorable stuffed pandas instead? At Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese eatery in Bangkok, a coterie of stuffed pandas now occupies some of the chairs. “Every time customers leave a table, we spray the table, chairs, and our pandas with disinfectant for health and safety reasons,” reads a post on the restaurant’s Instagram account.

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Circles Painted on the Grass

With the weather warming up, people understandably want to get outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. But after photos showing crowds of people at a couple of New York City parks went viral recently, a simple solution emerged. White circles appeared on the lawn of Domino Park in Williamsburg, which is open to the public but privately operated by real estate developer Two Trees. The circles are eight feet in diameter and six feet apart.

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Cardboard Cut-Outs

In New South Wales, Australia, restaurants were allowed a maximum of 10 diners when they reopened in mid-May. To save patrons from the experience of dining in a nearly empty restaurant, Frank Angeletta, the owner of Five Dock Dining near Sydney, placed cardboard cut-outs randomly around the tables and created a soundtrack of ambient chatter and clinking silverware. “The cut-outs and background noise are a bit eerie when you walk in, but once you’re sitting down it’s a bit of fun,” Angeletta told 7News.

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DIY Plastic Barriers

While some restaurants are installing plexiglass barriers between tables or even diners at the same table, Penguin Eat Shabu in Bangkok created a DIY version with piping and plastic wrap. The transparent barriers let people enjoy individual hotpots while avoiding exposure to each other’s germs.

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Giant Crowns

Like the pool noodles, giant paper crowns are being distributed at some Burger King locations in Germany. Six feet in diameter, the crowns—which patrons assemble themselves—act as a humorous reminder to maintain social distancing. “We wanted to reinforce the rules of high safety and hygiene standards that the BK restaurants are following,” a Burger King representative told My Modern Met.

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Toy Train That Delivers Coffee

Remember those conveyor belt sushi places? Cyclista Espresso Bar & Roastery in Palmerston North, New Zealand came up with a similar concept to ensure contactless service. Baristas deliver coffee to customers via a toy train that owner Steve Stannard found while cleaning his house during the lockdown. “It’s all about when people usually come in to get a coffee, they smile. It’s part of the café experience,” Stannard told New Zealand’s 1News.

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Drive Through Zoo

As a way to let families get out of the house and do something fun, the San Antonio Zoo in Texas created a drive-through zoo allowing people to observe the animals from the comfort of their own car. A trail takes visitors around the zoo’s grounds, where they can spot bears, leopards, lions, monkeys, birds, reptiles, and other animals. Tickets sold out so quickly that the experience has been extended.

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Basket Bread Delivery

When San Francisco chefs Ryan Stagg and Daniella Banchero lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, they started baking for their neighbors. When they realized they’d be out of work longer than they thought, they began selling their bread and baked goods to make rent. At their pop-up Bernal Bakery, they use a basket and pulley system to lower the sourdough loaves, cinnamon rolls, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, and other goodies to customers who have pre-ordered online.

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Restaurant With One Table

While most restaurant owners are scrambling to make their restaurants feel less empty, Linda Karlsson and her husband Rasmus Persson purposefully opened a restaurant with just one table in a field in Värmland, Sweden. Designed expressly to allow for social distancing, Bord För En has no host or waiter, but delivers a three-course gourmet meal made with locally sourced ingredients via a basket that runs from the kitchen to a pole next to the table along a clothesline. “With food, it is still possible to travel,” Karlsson told Fodor’s, explaining the international influences in the menu.