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Feature: Istanbul’s cafe resorts to well-dressed mannequins to ensure social distancing after reopening



Customers entering a cafe in central Istanbul on Tuesday were surprised when they saw some well-dressed mannequins sitting at some tables among other customers.

My friend and I decided to have a chat in this cafe for the first time in three months as the figures related to the COVID-19 cases have been in decline for a while in Turkey,” Mahmut Nuvit, a customer of the cafe, told Xinhua.

“We thought it would be empty over hygiene and social distancing concerns,” he continued with a smile on his face. “As soon as we stepped in, we noticed a different kind of crowd, and later realized that … some were mannequins.”

The management of the Varuna cafe and restaurant in the crowded Beyoglu district on the European side of the city has recently decided to use mannequins to implement the social distancing rule differently.

“Instead of leaving some of our tables empty, which would make the venue look bizarre and isolated, we simply treated the mannequins as our customers,” Ulas Volkan Celik, a manager of Varuna, told Xinhua.

On Monday, Turkey reopened restaurants, cafes, and many other facilities under strict precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic as the government decided to further ease restrictions.

The health ministry demanded the facilities leave at least 1.5 meters between each table and 60 centimeters between the chairs to secure the social distancing rule.

“We didn’t want to close some of our tables to the service or remove them to follow the rules,” Celik said. “After a brainstorming period, we came up with this creative idea.”

Now, there are a total of 16 mannequins sitting on eight out of 35 tables, all wearing daily outfits.

The staff had spent almost three weeks in preparing them for the big reopening on Monday.

“We found out that there are dressers specialized in dressing up mannequins,” Celik explained the process.

“But we did not apply to any stylist. We dressed our own clothes on mannequins,” he added.

The management has received a significant interest both from passersby and the customers, according to Celik.

“Even at the stage of our preparation, those who saw the models walked in and started taking photos,” he said, noting since the reopening, the customers have been saying of the cozy atmosphere inside the cafe.

“There is nothing more repellent than an empty cafe or restaurant, no matter where you are in the world,” Celik said.


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