The annual rite of late summer when a bunch of people drape themselves head-to-foot in white and eat food in a secret, public Philadelphia location is nearly upon us. Some people hail Diner en Blanc as performance art. Others consider it obnoxious and elitist to close down a public space for an exclusive event with a dress code.
And no matter your view, Diner en Blanc generally has the power to surprise the city because of its secret location, whether you’re a driver whose commute is being affected or a dinner-goer awaiting the announcement of the spot. But it doesn’t have to surprise you this year. Major spoiler alert: Billy Penn has learned the location of Thursday’s Diner en Blanc.
According to the office of the managing director, the dinner will be held at The Navy Yard. Given the relative isolation of that area, street closures have not been issued so far and the only complication will be coordinating a walk to The Navy Yard from AT&T Station for Diner en Blanc patrons.
This location should please the many opponents of Diner en Blanc who criticized its 2014 location. Last year, Diner en Blanc was held on the Avenue of the Arts. Hotels, restaurants and businesses along that section of Broad Street just south of City Hall were disrupted and a major thoroughfare was closed down. Then City Councilman Jim Kenney commented on Twitter that “scores of restaurants suffered tonight around there, with no notice, who plans this?”
The Navy Yard’s campus features 7 million square feet in developed space and another 13.5 million square feet available for lease. It will likely be able to accommodate thousands of Diner en Blanc attendees without nearly as much complication, especially because most of the people who work in the Navy Yard will have left by the starting time of the dinner. According to Diner en Blanc’s website, the event begins Thursday night at 6:30.
Manny Smith, SEPTA’s public information manager, declined to say anything specific about SEPTA coordination for Diner en Blanc but said SEPTA had been working with event organizers and would be able to accommodate diners and regular passengers during the event.
More than 26,000 people registered to be on Diner en Blanc’s waiting list this year, with only 4,300 making the final cut for the dinner.