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The Debate Over the Future of Outdoor Dining Is Off to a Complicated Start

Plus, a $200 plate of french fries breaks a world record — and more intel

A restaurant with a faded sign and tables set out in front under yellow umbrellas.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor, photographed in August 2020
Robert Sietsema/Eater

Residents of Lower Manhattan debate the future of outdoor dining

Residents of Lower Manhattan will debate the future of outdoor dining at a community board meeting this evening. Manhattan Community Board 3 — which includes Chinatown, Two Bridges, the Lower East Side, and the East Village — is among the first districts to discuss the program’s permanent future in New York City.

New Yorkers have overwhelmingly supported Open Restaurants during the pandemic, but the program’s permanent future has stirred up debates that range from safety and noise to pedestrian access and parking. Ahead of the community board meeting, a coalition of local groups — including LES Dwellers, Orchard Street Block Association, the Chinatown Core, and the East Fifth Street Block Association — is urging residents to attend and voice opposition to making outdoor dining permanent. “Since COVID restrictions have been lifted, we think it is time for the emergency dining sheds to be retired,” they tell EV Grieve.

Others hope to see changes to Open Restaurants before it’s made a permanent fixture in their neighborhoods. In Chinatown, close to third of small businesses said they wanted outdoor dining to continue after the pandemic, but only if the program is significantly improved, according to a recent survey of 197 storefronts by local group Welcome to Chinatown. A poll of 151 Chinatown seniors, who overwhelmingly opposed making outdoor dining permanent due to sidewalk access and other concerns, found that 15 percent of respondents would support the program if it accounted for those issues.

Community Board 3 is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Boys Club of New York, located at 287 East 10th Street, at Avenue A, in the East Village.

In other news

— This year’s Restaurant Week, an all-encompassing event that includes more than 500 restaurants, is scheduled to run from July 19 to August 22. Reservations are now open for the discounted meals, which this year are priced at either $21, $39, or $125.

— Kindred’s annual orange wine festival returns to the East Village on Sunday, July 25. Tickets to the event ($150) include 10 glasses of wine, each a two-ounce pour, and a five-course menu of handmade pastas and other dishes.

— Flatiron kaiseki counter Odo is set to reopen this weekend for the first time since the start of the pandemic. For the comeback, the restaurant will offer a four-course lunch, including dessert, priced at $125 per person.

— The recently renovated Serendipity3 has apparently broke its tenth world record, according to the New York Post. This time? A plate of $200 french fries.

— A monument to New York’s essential workers? Not in this neighborhood.

— Our new favorite “economic law”:

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