Vancouver café has mannequins sit in for customers to encourage physical distancing

While physical distancing requirements have meant reduced capacity for most restaurants, a Vancouver café has found a unique way to fill seats: full-sized mannequins.

Instead of using arrows or stickers to maintain a two-metre distance between customers, Roundel Cafe is putting mannequins in chairs to take up space.

Candy got her start in a lingerie store, but now she stretches out across three bar stools at the café, wearing a vintage frock from the 1950s and dangling a matching apricot purse made of ostrich leather. 

Dena Sananin, owner of Roundel Café, stirs coffee near a couple of mannequins which she added to the café to promote physical distancing in Vancouver on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Another full-bodied woman is also draped across two bar stools, while three torsos are scattered among the tables.

The cafe’s owner says the mannequins help preserve its welcoming atmosphere.

“We didn’t want to put Xs everywhere because this place is so cozy and friendly,” said Dena Sananin. “It was a way for people to sit distanced but to also open up the restaurant more.”

Roundel Café seated 48 customers before pandemic restrictions, but capacity has been reduced by half to 24 seats. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The mannequins were lent to Sananin by Burcu’s Angels vintage store a few blocks away. Owner Burcu Ozedimer handpicked which mannequins she thought would look best in the restaurant.

“It makes me very happy. When I walk by, or drive by at night, I see them shining in the window. It makes me giggle. I think, look, they’re going places, they’re visiting people.”

Burcu Ozdemir, owner of Burcu’s Angels Vintage Boutique, sits in front of Crepe, one of the mannequins she donated to help Roundel Café promote physical distancing. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Burcu Ozedimer says mannequin Crepe used to hang out in a jewelry store, but the owner thought he was creepy.

“Look at him, there’s nothing creepy about his character. He’s got a bit of pompousness. He’s very chiselled. I think he’s gay. He’s amazing.”

Burcu Ozedimer named this mannequin They, because she felt the mannequin seemed like someone who would identify as non-binary. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Longtime Roundel customer Harry Grunsky says seeing mannequins with names and back stories filling seats wasn’t strange. 

“It’s nice that they found a way other than big stop signs.”

Many of the cafe’s customers have been eating at Roundel Cafe since it opened 14 years ago. Prior to the pandemic shutdown on March 16, there were frequent lineups around the block to get in.  (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Sananin says singles especially seem to enjoy sitting at Crepe’s table for two by the front window.

“I came in one day and he had a little bottle of vodka in front of him. Like many folks these days, there might be a little extra drinking happening.”

Mannequins greet customers at the entrance to Roundel Cafe in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

She says she’ll miss her plastic co-workers if physical distancing restrictions are eventually lifted.

“They’re beautiful, and it would be lovely to keep them, but they’re also filling seats of people who want to eat here.”

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