Mannequins do double duty in a chic restaurant in virus-hit Montreal

Montreal (AFP) –


In one Montreal restaurant, patrons are getting a fashion-food two-for-one: Mannequins placed at tables not only ensure social distancing but also sport chic outfits that can be purchased to benefit charity.

With Quebec province at the forefront of Canada's coronavirus pandemic, businesses have been reopening cautiously.

Le Monarque, a fashionable restaurant in Old Montreal, reopened its doors just a few days ago -- but not without putting some creative safety measures in place first.

"We wanted to give customers more space," chef and owner Jeremie Bastien told AFP. "But we didn't want to remove tables or put up Plexiglas panels."

- Bringing worlds together -

So when Le Monarque fired up its ovens a few days ago, it took several steps to ensure social distancing.

The idea of filling some seats with mannequins, thus providing separation between human clients, came from the team behind the Sarah Pacini clothing line, including prominent Quebec menswear designer Philippe Dubuc.

"We wanted to make a stylish, high-end installation because we are bringing two worlds together, those of fashion and gastronomy," said Dubuc, adding, "I think these two worlds have always been close."

The restaurant's 29 mannequins all sport Sarah Pacini and Philippe Dubuc designs. They are meant to be "visually beautiful," both inspired by and fitting in with their elegant surroundings.

"We are there, of course, to create and market our clothing," Dubuc said. "But we are also there because our job is to make people dream."

- Silent auction -

Nassim Habashi, who was enjoying lunch at Le Monarque, approved, saying, "I think it's a wonderful idea both to mark the separation between tables and to make the atmosphere much more pleasant, given the current situation."

At the end of each meal clients are given a gift certificate redeemable in Sarah Pacini and Philippe Dubuc outlets.

Chef Bastien says the partnership has been "very advantageous" for both sides. But he stresses that it is about more than just "creating distance or dressing up the space."

The idea, he said, was to "go a bit deeper (and) figure out what we can do to help the people around us who have suffered during the pandemic."

The mannequins' clothes are not yet for sale. But restaurant patrons will eventually have a chance to take part in a "silent auction" and purchase the clothing they see -- with all profits going to charities.