Why NYC’s Peter Luger Steakhouse is filling its dining room with wax statues

Will Kreznick

Peter Luger is celebrating the increase in indoor dining capacity by inviting some very famous guests to dinner! As Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead for restaurants in New York City to increase occupancy to 35 percent beginning on Friday, Peter Luger Steakhouse has filled its empty tables with the […]

Peter Luger is celebrating the increase in indoor dining capacity by inviting some very famous guests to dinner! As Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead for restaurants in New York City to increase occupancy to 35 percent beginning on Friday, Peter Luger Steakhouse has filled its empty tables with the wax figures of stars from Madame Tussauds, including Audrey Hepburn, Jon Hamm, Jimmy Fallon and our very own Al Roker.

The Brooklyn restaurant has the wax mannequins on display throughout the dining room in a partnership with the legendary wax museum in order to make the unoccupied tables feel a little less empty. Inside the iconic steakhouse you’ll find Jon Hamm having a drink at the bar, Audrey Hepburn seated at a table and dressed in her “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” look while Jimmy Fallon waits at a table for you, ready to share some laughs and perhaps a porterhouse for two?

Amazingly, Al Roker is stationed at the bottom of the staircase, ready to direct diners to the second floor.

“The restaurant industry is vital to New York City’s economy, and it’s been particularly hard hit this past year,” said Daniel Turtel, vice president of Peter Luger, in a press release sent to TODAY Food. “We’re excited to welcome diners back indoors at 35%, and thought this would be a fun, safe way to fill some of the seats that need to remain empty as we continue to fight the pandemic. It has been wonderful working with the fabulous team at Madame Tussauds New York.”

And though it may initially be a bit strange to see the wax figures scattered throughout the restaurant, Peter Luger is not the first eatery to put this idea into practice during the coronavirus pandemic. Back in May, the Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia took dining to a theatrical level by seating mannequins throughout the dining room to comply with 50 percent capacity rules. Not only were the mannequins well dressed in 1940’s era attire, but servers attended to their tables, engaging them in (one-sided) conversation and offering them drinks.

And while these unusual diners may be unsettling to some, for the restaurant industry it’s been a playful way to draw interest to their venues in a time when many have experienced huge losses or been forced to shutter due to the impact of COVID-19. Having mannequins and wax figures fill empty tables has also been a great way to boost morale as businesses have struggled to stay open with limited capacity restrictions.

“The wax figures selected for this A-List dining experience represent a mix of New York City icons of the past and present, from funnyman Fallon to the elegant Audrey Hepburn,” Brittany Williams, spokesperson for Madame Tussauds New York, told TODAY in an email. “We hope guests enjoy a safe and savory escape and document it all with a few star-studded selfies!”

Peter Luger has struggled to maintain its reputation for the best steak in New York City in recent years. A takedown of the restaurant by The New York Times’ critic Pete Wells went viral in 2019 with celebs like Chrissy Teigen tweeting their agreement with the scathing review. The restaurant, which is considered a New York institution, has switched gears during the pandemic, offering takeout, delivery, outdoor dining and going against its cash-only business practices and accepting credit cards in order to stay afloat.

If you’re a fan of Al and Jimmy, or just crave a really good steak, the wax figures will be at Peter Luger Steak House through Monday, March 1 so be sure to book your reservation now.

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