Over the past decade, three of Prasad Chirnomula’s restaurants have become popular staples of downtown New Haven. But, by Sunday, all three will have closed permanently.
Thali Too, an Indian restaurant near Yale’s campus, will close on Oct. 29, following the closure of Chirnomula’s other two restaurants, Thali and Oaxaca Kitchen, which closed on Sept. 30 and Oct. 21, respectively. Chirnomula, the owner of the Five Star Restaurant Group, said he was forced to close the restaurants because he is no longer able to support them financially.
Specifically, he said, natural disasters such as hurricanes Sandy and Irene caused damage to some of his restaurants outside New Haven, which forced him to borrow money from banks, leading to financial strain on his restaurant group.
“It’s a sad decision, and it’s emotional because New Haven gave me a great name for the rest of the country,” Chirnomula said. “Obviously, closing is not easy because, when I did open these locations, the energy was so high and the atmosphere was so vibrant. To see these places go down is not the happiest moment.”
He also told the News last month that the “poor location” of Thali contributed to its closing and that he had hoped the surrounding area would see more economic development.
Chirnomula entered the culinary scene in New Haven by opening Thali at 4 Orange St. in 2006, later expanding with the addition of Thali Too at 65 Broadway in 2008 and Oaxaca Kitchen at 228 College St. in 2011.
Over the last decade, Chirnomula’s restaurants achieved both local and national success. In 2006, The New York Times awarded Thali a three star rating, which is rare for ethnic restaurants, Chirnomula said.
Chirnomula added that he appreciates the New Haven residents who have offered to host charity events and television appearances to help keep his restaurants open. He said he ultimately hopes to come back to New Haven in a “big way.”
“One thing I know is that I know how to run these restaurants. I know how to cook, and I know how to please people,” Chirnomula said. “So that is going to stay with me, and that will be put to use, hopefully in Connecticut and in New Haven specifically.”
Steve Fontana, the city’s deputy economic development director, said that, despite these three restaurant closings, New Haven’s food scene is still thriving. In the last three years, Fontana said, the city has seen a net increase of 12 restaurants. These and other restaurants have offered customers a diverse set of cuisines and contributed to New Haven’s reputation as a “foodie capital,” he said.
His office, the Office of Business Development, has aimed to make New Haven a welcoming place for entrepreneurs looking to launch new restaurant concepts, he added.
“We’ve worked hard to recruit and interest people in coming here, especially if they have something innovative to offer when it comes to either the type of cuisine they have or the type of experience they offer,” he said. “The idea is to have a city where you can find anything you want, and it’s affordable and easily accessible to the people here.”
Although Fontana is unsure about which businesses will replace Thali Too and Oaxaca Kitchen, he added that his department is starting to discuss which restaurant should replace Thali in 2018. The Office of Business Development has decided the type of restaurant to bring to the storefront, but Fontana declined to specify which it will be.
Rattan Kaul, the manager of Thali Too, said that he and his employees “feel sad about the closing but have to live with it.” Thali Too has about six employees, all of whom were told two weeks in advance about the restaurant’s closing, Kaul said. Around half of them have already stopped working to begin searching for new jobs.
There were between 40 and 60 employees working at the three restaurants, Chirnomula said. He added that most of the workers are being recruited for different jobs, and some will relocate to his other Connecticut restaurants.
Chirnomula opened his first restaurant in 1993.
Amber Hu | firstname.lastname@example.org