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Restaurant using blow-up dolls to enforce social distancing

May 14 (UPI) -- A South Carolina restaurant partially reopening for dine-in customers is keeping the tables compliant with social distancing guidelines by filling the dining room with blow-up dolls.

The Open Hearth restaurant in Taylors closed its dining room due to the COVID-19 pandemic March 17 and was allowed to reopen this week with a reduced capacity and a requirement that customers are seated 6 feet apart.

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The owners of the eatery, Paula Starr Melehes and her husband, Jimmy, said they didn't want the restaurant to look empty when customers came in to eat.

"Instead of using scary, yellow tape or roping off the empty tables, I thought, 'We're going to make this restaurant look full,'" Melehes told WYFF-TV.

Melehes said she ordered "the G-rated kind" of inflatable dolls from Amazon, dressed them up like customers and seated them at tables that would be off-limits to diners.

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

Melehes said the restaurant is being careful to observe all of the state's guidelines to remain open to customers.

"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."

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