Inn at Little Washington to reopen: ‘Waiter, there’s a mannequin eating soup’

mannequins inn at little washington
Lifelike mannequins will be seated at tables when The Inn at Little Washington reopens, since COVID-19 restrictions say it can only be filled to 50% capacity. (Courtesy The Inn at Little Washington)

When The Inn at Little Washington reopens on May 29 as Virginia’s COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, it can only be filled to 50%, and Chef Patrick O’Connell isn’t used to empty seats in the region’s only three star Michelin-rated restaurant.

So, socially distancing diners who glance toward a couple at a nearby table will likely realize they’re actually mannequins.

O’Connell has been working with the Signature Theatre, according to Washingtonian, to gather lifelike mannequins dressed in 1940s clothing who will be seated at tables throughout the dining room.

Reminiscent of the scene in “Home Alone 2” when Kevin staged a holiday party with mannequins and life-size cardboard cutouts to convince burglars the house was bustling with people, the hope is visitors won’t feel they’re dining alone.

According to Washingtonian, servers will be expected to interact with the mannequins, including speaking to them and pouring wine for them — likely not the vintages priced at several thousand dollars on the Inn’s wine list.

Located in the tiny town of Washington, Virginia, in Rappahannock County, the Inn could theoretically open this weekend, since the county isn’t included in the Northern Virginia counties that encouraged Gov. Ralph Northam to delay the “phase one” reopening for two weeks.

However, the Inn plans to wait, accepting reservations for May 29 and beyond.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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