Who are the Friends of Josiah Smith Tavern and what is our vision?
We are a non-profit organization of civic-minded residents whose goal is to restore and maintain the Josiah Smith Tavern and attached buildings in a respectful way so they can be enjoyed by all and become a hub for the community.
The Barn and connector will be converted into a 105-seat restaurant. We will provide office space for local charities including Weston Historical Society, Weston Forest & Trail and the Women’s Community League. The second-floor ballroom will be restored to a 49-seat function room available all to use.
Friends of Josiah Smith will not benefit financially in any way. All rent not required for maintenance and reserves will be passed on to the Town. In addition, the property will generate real estate tax revenues paid directly to the Town.
Why not just leave the buildings as they are?
They are not currently permitted for human occupancy, and don’t comply with health and safety codes. The lack of a septic system on the property means that raw sewage and wastewater from the building are discharged directly into adjacent wetlands.
Isn’t this just a rehash of prior proposals?
No. The proposal differs substantially from prior proposals in response to input from residents gained from a 3-year Town outreach effort, including public forums and regular meetings of a Working Group open to the public and televised on local access TV.
Prior proposals contemplated a 180-seat restaurant. In response to concerns over traffic and parking, the size has been reduced to 105-seats. Because of this reduction, on-site parking will be kept away from St. Julia’s Church and existing green space preserved. The Tavern building will now be available as office space, with local non-profits given priority.
Counting the 49 seats in the community room, aren’t you really proposing a 150-seat restaurant?
The restaurant operator hasn’t requested the community room for overflow seating, only functions. Based on their revenue estimate, they project around three functions per month, only a slight increase from the current usage. Any use of the community room for restaurant overflow would be subject to approval by the Board of Selectmen.
What will we be voting on at Spring Town Meeting?
A request for $630,000 to pay architectural and engineering fees to create a detailed plan needed to draft the lease and the construction plans.
Where will the money come from?
From Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. CPA funds are derived in part from a local real estate tax surcharge, and in part from state matching funds. The Town has enough CPA funds to pay these costs without borrowing.
Will my taxes go up?
No, the funds are already included in the CPA budget. In fact, once the restaurant opens it will generate revenue that will help reduce our overall tax burden. It will also strengthen the fabric of the town center and Weston’s attractiveness as place to live, which would in turn improve property values.
Will the Town retain ownership of the property?
Yes, unlike the 2012 proposal, the Town would remain the owner.
Why spend Town money on repairs that benefit private tenants?
The office tenants are long-standing community organizations with a combined membership of approximately 1,000 members. Leasing office space to them at a subsidized rent benefits the community. The restaurant operator will pay money back to the Town–$80,000 a year in fixed rent, around $15,000 a year in real estate taxes, and additional percentage rent on revenues—a first for a CPA-funded project. They will also spend significant sums to fit out the building, costs that can’t be paid from CPA funds, and their rent obligation will be secured by cash or a letter of credit.
What type of restaurant would go into this space?
The proposed operator, The Webber Restaurant Group, operates tasteful, down-to-earth restaurants such as the Scarlet Oak Tavern in Hingham, Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton and The Bancroft in Burlington. To see what these restaurants look like and indicative menus, visit their website at http://www.webberrestaurantgroup.com/. They have offered to hold tastings to solicit input from residents. Competing proposals had no committed restaurateur.