Dine Outdoors in the Heart of East Village, San Diego!
Written By: Kaylin Waizinger
Photography Provided By: Amari Dixon East Village Outdoor Dining
Nothing says hip and vibrant quite like San Diego’s East Village. What was once predominantly occupied by commercial warehouses, vacant lots and a smattering of residential properties, the neighborhood is now a thriving urban enclave with a bustling restaurant and bar scene, chic hotels, art galleries and an assortment of unique shops. The neighborhood encompasses 130 blocks of San Diego’s Downtown District and has an eclectic mix of sleek high-rises alongside former warehouses and Victorian homes. The construction of Petco Park, the Padres’ stadium, in 2004 sparked the start of the East Village evolution—a community that has now been likened to Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district.
Within the past six months, like other SoCal communities, East Village endured a difficult economic crisis that included the shutdown of restaurants and bars and the closure of shops, museums, venues (including Petco Park) and other small businesses. In efforts to comply with safety regulations and keep the community connected, the East Village Association stepped up to the plate with a game plan to help keep local businesses afloat. “We started talking about the idea of a curbside dining program back in early April and got the city involved to figure out how it could work logistically,” explains Diane Peabody Straw, Executive Director of East Village Association. “The goal is to allow restaurants to expand their space so that they can serve more people while maintaining social distancing.”
The curbside dining initiative began in late June with the expansion of additional patio seating onto the sidewalk in front of each participating restaurant. “This allows restaurants to have more square footage to work with to make sure tables can be properly spaced,” says Straw. J St, which is normally filled with cars, was shut down for pedestrians to walk, providing more room to pass one another and maintain distance. “We hope to reignite a sense of confidence in people so they feel comfortable enough to engage with the local businesses, recognizing that the proper safety measures are in place.” As of now, EVA plans to continue the program through the end of the year, depending on its overall effectiveness and California’s state of emergency.
According to Straw, the East Village community is young, vibrant and very diverse. “We see a huge range of working professionals from tech to art to everything in between,” she explains. At one point, it was estimated that East Village was home to over 15,000 dogs, and the majority of residents live in apartments. “This speaks to a very active community,” says Straw. “We wanted to create a place where people can come down out of their apartment buildings, walk their dogs and enjoy East Village again.”
As EVA works to unite the community, the association’s larger-scale events have been put on hold, such as the 10th annual East Village Opening Day Block Party and placemaking programs that include the display of public art. “Since March, we have consistently used the word ‘pivot,’” says Straw. “We have pivoted our focus to find ways to help our businesses get through this pandemic and that has been through education and connecting them with resources and local elected officials that can help them.”
Restaurants have been potentially hit the hardest during the pandemic, but despite the trying circumstances they face, many have stepped up in unique and selfless ways to give back to the community. “It’s been really inspiring to see,” says Straw. MAKE pizza+salad pledged for every pizza purchased, they would give one to a first responder, police officer or Clean and Safe worker in East Village. “Anytime someone wanted to stop in for a pizza, they were taken care of. Seeing things like that are really cool,” Straw says. Social Tap and a few other restaurants worked to provide affordable, large family meals for takeout and reasonably priced meals for those who were laid off, while the owners of Breakfast Republic dedicated one of their locations entirely to serving free meals to anyone who had been laid off—no questions asked! “We are seeing so much generosity. And in a time of such uncertainty, that is really powerful,” says Straw. “As the largest neighborhood in Downtown San Diego, we are dedicated to making sure we pay attention to all corners of East Village, providing programs that are beneficial to everybody in our community.”
East Village Association
1041 Market St
San Diego, CA 92101 East Village Outdoor Dining
619.546.5636 East Village Outdoor Dining