• Local college may close Salem Diner's doors after 78 years of service

    By: Drew Karedes

    Updated:

    SALEM, Mass. - The chance to dine in a North Shore relic of the past may soon be coming to an end. The Salem Diner has been a staple for nearly 80 years – its long past of regulars includes Red Sox legends Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams.

    "You walk in here and it's like taking a trip back in time," said Josh Turiel, a Salem Ward 5 Councilor.

    A journey that goes back nearly 80 years to when the Salem Diner opened in 1941.

    From Red Sox legends to a range of notable New England figures to a running list of returning locals, this Sterling Streamliner car serves up a slice of history with its reasonably priced food.

    Learning those days could be numbered was a tough pill to swallow for regulars like Councilor Turiel. 

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    "We['ve] got tons of foodie and fast food restaurants," Turiel said. "We don’t have a lot of good, old school, 'everybody is equal at the counter,' sort of places."

    That counter service may soon be getting the axe by the very institution that came in and kept it going six years ago.

    Salem State University bought the diner after its 2013 closing, relaunching the relic as part of its campus dining.

    But the university is now considering discontinuing service – partly because of cost and space. 

    "I'm really sad to see it close and I'd be devastated to see it demolished," said Judith Reilly, a regular customer at the diner. 

    Reilly believes a crucial component of the community’s character is on the chopping block. 

    "We don’t know this neighborhood without it," she said.

    As Salem State considers new future development at the site of the restaurant, Reilly is hoping the university will consider what this old school gem means to the people here.     

    "It's a beloved local institution," she said. "If they want to be part of the community, one of the best ways is to respect the diner."

    The school did issue a written statement from Kimberly Burnett, a spokeswoman for Salem State University. 

    Following a study conducted by a consulting team to review Salem State’s dining program and facilities and to evaluate how we can offer the best value to our campus community, a request for proposals (RFP) was issued to solicit a new dining service provider. The consultant recommended that the university not require the next dining services provider to operate all current facilities, including the diner, as these smaller locations are costly to operate and make it difficult to achieve the food quality and accessibility standards that we seek for our students. This would allow the next dining services provider to focus on key locations to maximize value and efficiency and to enhance the student experience. We understand and appreciate the history of the diner within the community and have not made any final decisions or plans with regard to the future of the building and will be evaluating options going forward. 

    The University says a consulting team did make the recommendation to stop serving at the diner in a recent review of the school’s dining program and facilities. 

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    The diner is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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