SALEM — After years of false starts, it looks as if the city has finally found a tenant for its “historic” and long vacant restroom/bathhouse at Salem Willows.
A new restaurant, tentatively called The Clam Shack, hopes to open this summer, or next, depending on how long it takes to secure permits and complete renovations.
The Park and Recreation Commission approved a five-year lease this week for Angelo Meimeteas, a Salem resident who, with his brother, George, owns and operates the Clam Shanty in Wells, Maine.
Meimeteas told the board he plans to open a restaurant with takeout and outdoor seating that will serve fried clams, steamers, lobster salad sandwiches and lobster dinners. Since the building is small, no indoor dining is planned.
“I’ve always loved the Willows,” said Meimeteas, whose wife, Amie Marie, runs a hair salon on Boston Street. “I’ve been going there with my family for years. When I heard the city wanted to lease this property, I looked at it and thought, ‘This could be nice here.’”
He said he can picture customers getting takeout and parking by the water, or sitting under awnings at outdoor tables facing the harbor.
Meimeteas said he has heard all the jokes about leasing a former bathroom, a vacant building which the city has tried unsuccessfully to market for years. But he says the renovations will be so extensive that little more than the outside frame of the structure will remain.
“This is going to get gutted,” he said. “We’re going to start from scratch.”
Under terms of the lease, Meimeteas will pay no rent for five years as long as he puts at least $30,000 into the building. The new tenant said he plans to install kitchen vents, new floors, air conditioning and make other improvements that will far exceed that figure. A contractor, Meimeteas said he plans to do most of the renovations himself.