Update: (6/13/20). Our review of The Lookout at Lookout Farm.
(Update: (6/10/20). The Board of Selectmen approved the expanded alcohol delivery service area by the farm on 6/8/20 at its meeting. All that was left was for the fire department to approve the grilling area, and it looks like Lookout Farm’s wishes will be granted.
The Natick Board of Selectmen plans to discuss its permit process for temporary outdoor dining at Monday night’s board meeting. At first we thought the most intriguing part was this: “The Town will lead the effort to establish use of public spaces in Downtown Natick for Temporary Outdoor Dining.”
But then we saw that Lookout Farm is on the agenda, too, looking for an expansion of its outdoor licensed premises. As it turns out, the farm is looking to change things up significantly and has a letter of recommendation dated June 5 from the town’s Director of Community & Economic Development, James Freas.
The 180-acres farm looks to consolidate eating and drinking operations, which have included the taproom, Peach Pit and other venues, near its U-barn in a space not to exceed 400 seats dubbed The Lookout. The operation would be integrated with the orchard to provide part of Lookout Farm’s overall “agri-tourism” experience, sunsets, walking trails, fruit trees, and all. Selling points include a spacious enough area to allow 100 square feet per guest, triple that of its current venues.
The farm also pledges to provide a highly sanitized operation, with online reservations and paths between facilities designed to avoid guests cross-crossing one another. If Lookout Farm’s Operations Manager Jay Mofenson gets his way, the farm would be offering eating and dining services 7 days a week starting at noon, hopefully June-October.
In its letter to the BoS, Lookout Farm paints a bleak picture of its future under current conditions—farm operational expenses of $200K per month and revenue but a trickle—unless it can greatly enhance its eating and drinking operations. Even if it could re-open the indoor taproom, doing so profitably would not be possible under social distancing guidelines, Mofenson says.
In a letter dated May 18 to the Board of Selectmen, Mofenson even goes here: “We believe that these operational pivots further enhance the farm experience and short of residential development, is our best chance to generate the essential revenue needed to survive.”
Mofenson also plays the history card in his pitch:
“Lookout Farm and the town of Natick have a symbiotic relationship and shared interest in maintaining the farm as an operational agricultural property. Farming since 1651, Lookout Farm is a very special part of our shared community and with your support, I believe we have a solid plan to redefine ourselves for a successful future.”
Mofenson writes to the BoS that: “Our team is confident that we can successfully adapt to the ‘new normal’ and create a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for our guests.”
If the town bites, this will be a new normal indeed.