NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio dined indoors for lunch today at legendary Manhattan Chinatown spot Hwa Yuan, a representative for the mayor’s office confirmed, in a show of support for the neighborhood following Lunar New Year. Previously, de Blasio previously committed to dining indoors if the state lifted indoor dining restrictions in the city, and NYC restaurants were allowed to re-open their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity starting last Friday.
According to Hwa Yuan’s manager Jack Lin, de Blasio arrived at the restaurant around 1 p.m. with several other people and ordered Peking duck, Sichuan-style lamb chops, and tiger shrimp in a spicy ginger sauce for lunch. Lin was happy to see the mayor dining at the restaurant, he says, adding that the visit brings attention to the local Asian community and struggling businesses in the neighborhood.
Chinatown establishments “were hit the hardest in the restaurant industry during the pandemic,” Lin says. “We are really happy to see him.”
The mayor has engaged in a number of public restaurant outings during the pandemic, including recently grabbing a Restaurant Week takeout meal from Felice 83 on the Upper East Side. The mayor also ate outdoors at Melba’s in Harlem in June, and visited Manhattan’s Chinatown over the summer to promote outdoor dining. In that excursion, de Blasio came under fire after seemingly ignoring pleas from 46 Mott bakery manager Patrick Mock for the city to do more to support small businesses, especially in Chinatown, which has suffered from xenophobic attacks on top of weathering a devastating economic downturn amid the pandemic.
Hwa Yuan’s elegant, multi-level space opened for indoor dining on February 12, with 55 seats at 25 percent capacity, according to Lin. The well-liked Sichuan-focused restaurant, which reopened in 2017 after a decades-long hiatus, has also been offering heated outdoor seating, takeout, and delivery to generate revenue during the past year.
Earlier this morning, just before the mayor’s meal indoors at Hwa Yuan, the city released new guidance instructing New Yorkers in best practices for dining indoors during the pandemic. Diners should keep parties to four people maximum, and preferably keep parties to family members or those within already-set social bubbles, according to the recommended guidelines. Diners should also keep masks on except for when they are physically eating or drinking.
The mayor isn’t the only political figure to have recently paid a visit to Hwa Yuan. Mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang stopped by the restaurant earlier this year, calling the establishment one of “my favorite spots on East Broadway.”