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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Coming this summer: a new restaurant at former Ford’s Lobster site in Noank

    A panoramic view of the former Ford’s Lobster facility in Noank as seen on Nov. 23, 2023. (Tim Martin/Special to The Day)

    Groton ― A new seafood restaurant, to be called Haring’s, is anticipated to open this summer season at the former Ford’s Lobster property on Riverview Avenue in Noank.

    The 85th Day Food Community, which owns the Oyster Club, The Port of Call, and the Engine Room in Mystic, as well as a catering and events operation, aims to start serving lobster rolls, chowder and seafood at the restaurant on Memorial Day weekend, or by Father’s Day at the latest, said 85th Day Food Community CEO and founder Dan Meiser.

    “We’re excited to be up and running this summer,” Meiser said.

    Meiser said the restaurant will operate this upcoming season in the same format and footprint of the former Ford’s Lobster restaurant, which closed last year after its lease ended, but the Mystic-based restaurant group is exploring changes for the 2025 season.

    Meanwhile, Ford’s Lobster/Haring’s Marine, which said on Facebook in November that it was confident it would return in a new location after its lease ended, posted an update Wednesday that: “We are still working out where we'll be this summer, but we are confident we'll be close by and able to give you all some delicious lobsta! Stay tuned!!”

    Zoning Enforcement Officer Bill Mulholland said the original approval to operate as a restaurant, including with BYOB and the existing seating capacity and parking requirements, stays with the Riverview Avenue property, so the 85th Day Food Community’s restaurant can operate in the same manner without any additional approvals needed.

    The Noank Zoning Commission last week heard about potential modifications the 85th Day Food Community would like to make at a future date during a non-binding “pre-application review,” said Mulholland. No application has been submitted yet, but a small addition for dining space, parking and alcohol were among the topics discussed.

    Mulholland said the applicant would need to return to the commission to ask for approval for any proposed changes and there would be a public hearing.

    Meiser said the restaurant group plans to operate BYOB this summer, but anticipates seeking a restaurant liquor permit for the 2025 season, which he said will put the sale of alcohol in the hands of trained professionals who ensure alcohol does not leave the property unregulated.

    Meiser said the restaurant will accept reservations. The Mystic Seaport Museum, which holds a conservation easement on the property, will manage the dock space.

    While conversations are continuing with the restaurant group’s architects and engineers, the zoning board and staff, and the public, the proposed vision for 2025 includes the addition of a 750-square-foot dining room between the lobster shack building and restaurant, as the current dining room is proposed as a fish market and welcoming space, Meiser explained.

    The restaurant groups plans to landscape the property and shore up buildings and paint them. He said the only change to the buildings will be the removal of a dilapidated section of shed next to the lobster shack. The iconic lobster shack will be preserved and painted.

    He said the sign for Haring’s Marine, a gas dock and bait and tackle business, will remain.

    “There’s a lot of amazing stories from that community that we hope to not only preserve but to bring to light with our guests as they come to that iconic property,” Meiser said.

    The restaurant group is working with the commission on different ideas for patio seating, he said.

    Meiser said the idea is to create a casual vibe with a commitment to quality and service.

    He anticipates submitting an application, which will include a parking plan, in the late summer or fall.

    Cathy Maynard Osborne, a Branford resident who grew up in Noank right by Ford’s and continues to visit, said she already feels the area is overrun by restaurants and she is concerned about parking. She said she hopes the new operator would keep it small and nostalgic, so people see the landmarks of Noank.

    According to Ford’s Lobster’s website, Orion Ford started a lobster shack on the property that Kris Nyman then was in charge of after Ford retired.

    “In 2010 Kris and Kerrie purchased a hot dog cart with their last bit of savings, crossed their fingers and hoped people would come by for a lobster roll,” the website states. “They did! Two years later the indoor dining room was designed and the rest, as they say, is history!”

    “My wish and my hope is that they keep the shoreline waterfront look of Noank, and for Orion Ford’s sake, keep it as it is,” Osborne said, speaking of her wishes for the new restaurateur of the Riverview Avenue property.

    The website says that Ford’s plans to open in a new location and Fords Black & Blue at Spicer’s Marina remains open.

    Editor’s note: this version corrects the spelling of Kris Nyman’s last name.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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