SALISBURY — What once was an eyesore is gone and the people of Salisbury Beach could not be happier.
“Anything will be better than what was there,” longtime Salisbury resident Janice Moe said of the former Sidewalk Cafe. “It was a real eyesore for the beach. They hadn’t done anything for years. It just sat there empty, rotting.”
The 40,000-square-foot site that once was a hub of activity for Salisbury Beach Center during the 1950s and 1960s, the Sidewalk Cafe, located on the beach at Ocean Front South, went out of business years ago. The dilapidated, run-down building remained — a blight at the beach, much to the dismay of residents and beachgoers.
“I tried not to think about it,” Moe said. “There were fires, there were break-ins, there were beer cans, and you know that the kids were partying in there. I’ve got nothing against the kids, but it was dangerous.”
But all that changed two weeks ago when the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation tore the building down, leaving only the concrete foundation, which was fenced in on Friday. DCR owns and maintains Salisbury Beach.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 45 years,” said Maurice Hatem, who lives directly across from the site and owns a business in the same location. “I get to see the sunrise, now I can see the ocean. I could see a blue wall, a blue door, now I can see blue skies and the ocean.”
Directly next door to Hatem, the owner of the Dolphin Grille, Kevin Buswell, bought his business last year with the anticipation of the Sidewalk Cafe building being removed.
“The customers are happy, it’s all about the view,” Buswell said. “It was a long time coming. I think everybody here on the beach is very excited. Now hopefully it won’t sit here for another 12 years before they figure out what they want to do with it.”
Indeed, what the state plans to do next is on many people’s minds.
“There are a couple of options out there, I guess,” Buswell said. “One is that they are going to just take it out and bring it back to nature. The other is, they are thinking about putting a comfort station in. Restrooms, changing room, sitting area, a little play area for the kids.”
“I’d like to see a bathroom,” Hatem said. “I’d like to see a playground for the kids and I’d like to see a stand for music where people could sit down and listen to the music.”
A 74-year resident of Salisbury, Denise Brown would like to see some pride return to her hometown.
“I hope they use that property for some sort of a good idea,” Brown said. “I’d like to see them put a place there for the elderly to sit and watch the ocean, or a small playground. The beach really needs something to bring it back. People don’t even know where Salisbury Beach is anymore.”
Bradford’s Diane Wood has spent the past 50 years summering in Salisbury and hopes the area can be used for concessions.
“I would like to see some better eating places here,” Wood said. “Maybe some bistro tables where you could sit by the ocean and have it fixed up. A couple of hotdog stands or something. Some places where you can sit like they have done over in Hampton. That would be fine with me.”
David Sheafer, owner of the Salisbury Discount House, summed up the thoughts for both the retailer and the residents.
“It’s an eyesore that’s gone,” he said. “We’re all thrilled about it. It opens up the space. Now we want the DCR to move on the land. Let us do something with it, so people can enjoy it.”
“I would like to see it made available to the public, no matter what they do,” Moe said. “Put a boardwalk in with benches, tables, anything.”