Open Hearth uses blow-up dolls to enforce social distancing

Open Hearth uses blow-up dolls to enforce social distancing

TAYLORS, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Yes, dear reader, that headline is very real.

Open Hearth, a restaurant in Taylors, is usually serving up steakhouse staples. But COVID-19 forced them to alter their plans for a time, until South Carolina governor Henry McMaster said restaurants could partially re-open dining halls this week. But Paula Starr Melehes, the co-owner of Open Hearth, still wanted to make sure her customers not only physically distanced, but didn't feel intimidated.

"I dread putting that yellow tape across the booths and making everybody think that this is a condemned restaurant or that things are in bad shape," she said.

So before re-opening to the public, Paula and her crew took to the internet for ideas on how to avoid using caution tape. And then came a bizarre idea: blow-up dolls.

The phrase might bring up more "mature" imagery, but Melehes said they found a relatively G-rated way to execute the plan.

"We got on our iPad trying to figure out what might work," she said. "They had no obscene body parts or anything like that. We found five men and five women that we decided to dress up with our own clothes and blow them up."

The idea is certainly a hit with Greenville County sheriff Hobart Lewis, who says it's a clever way to keep customers apart.

"Paula was very creative in spacing out those booths, instead of just putting tape over them," he commented.

As for Melehes, she says it's certainly one way of getting back to normal, even if a full house isn't as chatty as usual.

"I appreciate the local people that have helped us out to give us a little bit of punch to our day and make us feel like we created something that was a little more fun and light than the foreboding pandemic," she told us. "I am so glad they’re here. We were here last night, and tonight, and probably tomorrow."

More about Open Hearth:

FEMA cancels $55 million contract for N95 masks

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