Like most things, trends move in a cyclical pattern. The food and beverage scene is no different. With a current trend being “what's old is new", which you can see in full affect with the recent opening of Fern Bar at The Barlow in Sebastopol, Ca. A true nod to the bar’s of yesteryear with a modern day edge.
When I sat down with Sam Levy, Operating Partner/General Manager at Fern Bar to learn more about what Sonoma County could expect from the newest addition to The Barlow, he expressed a similar sentiment about the project and how Fern Bar came to be.
Becoming a Reality:
Turning an idea into reality is a challenge but when you take Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble, the duo behind Lowell’s and Handline, Sam Levy, former Bar Manager at St. Helena’s three Michelin-starred Meadowood, Joe Zobel, former Chef at Lowell’s, and Gia Baiocchi, owner of The Barlow’s Nectary, you’re bound to have magic happen. With the ‘who’ covered now it was time to focus on the ‘what, where, when, and why’.
Let’s start with the ‘why’. Why Sebastopol?Sam, originally from Sebastopol, said it quite simply, “Sebastopol is our home, all the partners and everyone involved are locals, and our roots go deep. There is something special in the air here (and no, it’s not just the smell of patchouli and hippie)”. The team also felt “there had been a need for a unique cocktail bar in Sebastopol for a while, but Lowell, Natalie, Gia, and Joe were unable to find the right space for years. A conversation with Barney Aldridge of The Barlow led to discovering an open space... and it became clear there was no better time than the present to bring the idea to life”!
Which leads us to why The Barlow? It “has become a popular dining and shopping destination here in Sebastopol, so it felt fitting that the new concept we were opening should be there”, said Sam. That ‘where’ was solidified “the first time I sat down with Lowell at Woodfour and saw how The Barlow had grown into something great, I knew Sebastopol was ready for a cocktail bar. Our architect, interior designer, and our partners are all incredibly talented, it was obvious we would be able to do create a special place together”.
What is a Fern Bar, what does it mean? I had the same question and loved learning about the history and appreciated Sam’s homage to the bars that shaped our current bar culture. “A fern bar is style of bar originating from Henry Africa’s in San Francisco, part of the movement that swept through the Bay Area back in the late 60s. Bars born out of that era were infused with new creative energy, ready to cater to the growing appreciation for the craft of the cocktail. It didn’t hurt that these new spaces were often filled with plants, especially ferns, offering visual interest and a unique natural setting. Lemon Drops, Piña Coladas, and Daiquiris were just some of the new drinks we owe to the fern bars of that era. At Fern Bar, we wanted to channel that similar excitement, flow of creativity, and ambiance”, said Sam.
What to Expect:
Now to the extra important part… food and libations! What should you expect when visiting Fern Bar? West County at it’s finest! As Sam put it, “we want to showcase the best of the West County in a beautiful bar setting with live music in a convivial atmosphere. Our land holds perfect growing conditions and dedicated farmers. The food we will offer will closely reflect what nature and their efforts grant us. We are also lucky to have many talented friends making standout wine and spirits in the area and plan to showcase their work. However, our team at Fern Bar is culturally diverse and we appreciate international wines and spirits as well, so you’re going to see plenty of interesting variety on our beverage list”.
Guests can expect live music, “from a variety of different genres Latin jazz, jazz, records night, Americana, and a piano bar evening. We want to have something on every night, and people can visit our website fernbar.com or our Instagram and Facebook page to get the weekly schedule”. Or if you have a special occasion, celebrate with Fern Bar, there is “great space that is perfect for small and large private events. We are able to create special menus and private space for groups up to 100 people”. But the ultimate takeaway Sam wants every guests to have after a visit is... “Wow, why aren’t there more places like this? I can’t wait to come back”... which I can attest to, I can’t wait to visit Fern Bar again!
Enjoy the Adventure - Poppy & Vine
Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio