I'm all for well-being and good sense during this plight, but I'm in a dither, as they say Down South, about the airworthiness of a business idea.

A South Carolina dine-in restaurant, in the name of safe distancing, has placed blow-up dolls throughout the booths and tables. The owners said they are following the guidelines by spacing out customers, using G-rated blow-up dolls. I don't know whether to codify this as blowing social distancing out of proportion or just plain hill country hilarity.

Don't get me wrong, I love South Carolina. I was born in its capital, Columbia, and we've vacationed in Myrtle Beach, one of my former radio affiliate cities. South Carolina just started easing its dining restrictions enacted in mid-March. So rather than taping off tables and booths with yellow caution tape, to fill up those empty seats, the owners of Open Hearth in Taylors, S.C. decided to order the family-friendly model of blow-up dolls, dress them up, and place them seated at tables that can't be used by real customers.

COVID-19 is forcing businesses to come up with original and unconventional ways of making a buck. If we still had the Shawmut Diner, I'm sure we would also be thinking of creative ways to cope with the situation. What's tragic is well over one-third or more of the restaurants we loved to patronize won't re-open, so who am I to start a food fight with the ideas of nonconformity?

From someone with hospitality experience, I might make a few suggestions to the owners of Open Hearth, though. Put face masks on the stand-ins, because there's always those infamous complainers who have a beef with something. If there's a bar in the establishment, fill those figures with a touch of helium, and in the men's room post a sign that reads "Eat Your Heart Out, HOV Lane Cheaters!"

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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