The concept for Fern Bar began almost five years ago when Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble, owners of successful Sebastopol restaurants Handline and Lowell’s, had an idea to open up a cocktail bar, a concept missing in Sebastopol at the time. Their original desired location for a speakeasy-type bar was a shed across from The Barlow, Sebastopol’s outdoor market that revitalized the former apple cannery buildings into a dining and shopping destination for locals and tourists alike. Due to city regulations, the location wasn’t feasible, but Lowell and Natalie held onto their dream. Along with Lowell’s head chef Joe Zobel, a kitchen veteran whose career began at restaurants in San Francisco, including the popular smokehouse Wexler’s, the team imagined a bar and restaurant filled with live music, interesting cocktails, delicious food, and jovial conversation.
A few years later in September 2017, a fortuitous conversation with The Barlow’s owner Barney Aldridge brought to light that a spot was opening in The Barlow right across from the shed that had originally inspired Lowell and Natalie’s bar. The available space was perfect: set off from the main drag in the Barlow, high ceilings, and it shared a space with the production facility of the Nectary, a plant-based drink company owned by their friend Gia Baiocchi. Although The Nectary already had a small retail space in the Barlow, Gia had also dreamed of opening a place that spoke to friends gathering together in a warm and opening space, so the group formed a natural partnership.
The last missing piece was someone to head the cocktail program and manage the floor. Sam Levy, the former bar manager of Michelin-starred Meadowood in Napa and a fellow Sebastopol native, had been friends since childhood with Natalie. With his extensive cocktail experience and a veteran of fine-dining, including a stint at Healdsburg’s lauded restaurant Barndiva, he was the perfect person to complete the team.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, their vision began to come together with help from friends and family and in December 2018, the restaurant opened its doors to the community that inspired it.