Pandemic pandas, as far as the eye can see. It's extremely normal.

By Jelisa Castrodale
November 25, 2020
Credit: Getty Images

At the end of October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a partial lockdown for the European nation, ordering bars, gyms, concert venues, and theaters to close for one month, while hotels can only offer rooms to business travelers.

“We are seeing an exponential increase in the numbers,” Merkel said at the time. “That’s why it’s totally clear that we must act now to avoid an acute public health emergency.”

One restaurant owner in Frankfurt has responded to the chancellor's order by filling every table with beer drinkers, and allowing those customers to hang around all day, every day. Nobody's complaining though, because all 100-plus of his patrons are stuffed panda bears. 

Guiseppe Fischera, the manager of Pino, said that the bears–and their bottles of Corona beer–were a "silent protest," albeit a mostly well-meaning one. "We wanted to put some life back into our restaurant,” he told Reuters. “They are Panda-Mic pandas.” (That pun kind of works in German too: pandemic translates as pandemie, while panda is, um, panda.) 

Credit: Getty Images

Restaurant owners are forgiven for feeling a little punchy after months of shutdowns, restrictions, and ever-changing regulations. Maybe that's why Pino isn't the first joint to pile a bunch of stuffed animals at its otherwise empty tables. 

In May, the owner of Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok, put an assortment of pandas out, mostly so his guests would have somebody to talk to. “Earlier we had only one chair for the tables where the customer came alone," Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul said. "But for me, it felt strange, so I thought I’d give them some company." (One diner said that the bear "made [him] feel less lonely," which is ridiculously wholesome.) 

Meanwhile, Tagine, a north African spot in the Balham neighborhood of London, put a dozen giant stuffed bears out so customers wouldn't be tempted to sit too close to each other. 

“Kids, six, seven years old, they are telling each other that it is for distancing,” he said," owner Zizou Hammoudi told The Independent. “Even the kids, they know about it. I’m so happy.”

Credit: Getty Images

Big bears were also stashed in empty seats at the Jaso Bakery in Mexico City, at Beef 'n Beer in Hofheim, Germany, and at Le Choupinet café in Paris. "We already had the bears but they were inside," a Le Choupinet manager said. "Now we take them out [...] It makes a nice image to see in the street and it is useful at the same time––and, of course, customers love it." 

According to Reuters, Germany is expected to extend its partial lockdown until December 20. Looks like those pandas have time to order another round.