By MethuenLife Staff

It was a unanimous 5-0 “no” from the Zoning Board on Dec. 14, regarding Scrubadub car wash’s request for a special permit to build at Fireside Restaurant & Pub on Pelham Street.

The vote came after several Zoning meetings on the plan, as well as significant resident input via e-mail and public hearings. While several board members lauded the company’s presentation, they ultimately rejected the plan based on traffic and safety concerns.

“Tonight is one of the most difficult votes I’ve ever taken, because we have two good guys and somebody’s going to suffer,” Zoning Board Chair Matt D’Agostino said, in reference to Scrubadub owners as well as Fireside owners who – after 68 years of running the family business – would like to retire. “They have the right to retire, but that’s not the criteria for us. … We make decisions based on the quality of life for the people of Methuen – always have and always will.”

The Fireside remains open.

“It didn’t work as a car wash, so now we’re trying to sell it as a restaurant. That’s the new plan,” Fireside patriarch Tom Swerchesky told MethuenLife the day after the vote. “It’s business as usual until we have a buyer.”

That may come sooner than later.

“I’ve had three or four restaurant owners snooping around. I have a few phone calls to make to see who’d be interested. I just can’t say who yet,” Tom said.

Tom and his sister Pauline and their children have run the restaurant for decades, after it was originally founded by Tom’s grandmother as a roadside fried clam hut.

“We’re all tired. It’s time for me to retire; we’re all tired and ready to move on,” said Tom. “At the Zoning Board meeting, one of the members of the Zoning Board said we’re ‘a pillar of the community.’ It was really nice to hear that.”