Dominique Castanheira, Contributing Photographer

Last Friday, the city celebrated the reopening of the Orange Street Promenade, expanding outdoor dining offerings in New Haven.

The promenade – a closed street segment that creates a walkable space – allows businesses to expand their capacity for outdoor seating. The number of outdoor dining permits has risen from roughly 35 at the end of 2020 to 51 now, according to New Haven Economic Development Director Michael Piscitelli.

“Outdoor dining brings a sense of belonging, a sense of place,” Piscitelli said at the Orange Street Promenade reopening event. “You’ll see it here and you’ll see it citywide.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, 47 new businesses have opened in the city since last March. Friday’s event included ribbon cuttings to celebrate the openings of two such businesses on Orange Street — the restaurant Somos and the plant nursery Bark & Vine.

“It’s exciting to have people starting up in New Haven,” said Steve Fontana, New Haven’s deputy director of economic development. “There’s a lot of interest, even in the depths of a pandemic, to start a business.”

Fontana attributed this interest to New Haven’s “ambitious entrepreneurial environment.” He said the city fostered this environment by offering resources such as the city’s Small Business Resource Center, where business owners can obtain support, and Collab New Haven, which serves Connecticut entrepreneurs.

Co-entrepreneurs and brothers Alejandro and Andres Cordido launched their restaurant Somos together. Somos specializes in handcrafted Venezuelen Arepas, which are cornmeal cakes served with protein, vegetables and cheese. The brothers planned to open in March 2020, but pushed back their plans due to the restrictions put in place from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alejandro Cordido, co-owner of Somos, which serves handcrafted Arepas. (Photo: Dominique Castanheira, Contributing Photographer)

Despite opening during a pandemic, Alejandro Cordido said that the restaurant has been busy, noting that he is optimistic about gaining more customers amid the warmer weather, vaccine rollout and the promenade’s reopening. Since expanding into outdoor seating, Somos has doubled its capacity.

“Having this Orange Street Promenade is huge,” Alejandro Cordido said. “People come out and sit outside, and they feel more safe.”

Alejandro Cordido emphasized the importance of the business community in Ninth Square as well, as he gets a coffee every day at Skappo Merkato and buys breakfast at Ninth Square Market.

“It feels like a little family here,” he said.

Megan Roberts, the supervisor at the newly-opened Bark & Vine, agreed. She told the News that she appreciates how the other businesses on Orange Street support each others’ businesses.

Megan Roberts, the supervisor at indoor plant store Bark & Vine. (Photo: Dominique Castanheira, Contributing Photographer)

Bark & Vine, which specializes in indoor plants, opened in February 2021. The grand opening of the business garnered a three-hour line in cold New Haven weather. Roberts attributed the success of Bark & Vine to the fact that people spend more time at home due to the pandemic, which has led to a rise in interest in houseplants.

As the weather gets warmer, Roberts said that the business plans to use the promenade by having an outdoor setup complete with herbs, perennial flowers and events.

With the Orange Street Promenade now open, a second one on College Street is planned to be formally opened next week. Next month, a promenade is set to open in Westville.

The Orange Street Promenade is located on Orange Street between Center and Crown.

Dominique Castanheira |

Dominique Castanheira covers business, unions, and the economy in New Haven.