After more than 50 years, Quarters BBQ on Yale is closing its kitchen.
The last day of operation is today, Friday.
But while the beloved family-owned restaurant will no longer be serving up its signature ribs and hot links, the bar and liquor store portions of the business will remain open.
“It’s been an amazing ride, a wonderful ride,” Quarters president Connie Nellos said on Friday from behind his desk inside the liquor store.
Quarters BBQ got its start in 1970 when Nellos purchased the property at 801 Yale SE and opened the restaurant and the liquor store portion of the business.
As the son of a restauranteur, Nellos said that he and his brothers, Ernie and Basil, didn’t have much interest in running a restaurant and decided to leave kitchen operations to their friend Henry Clopton, who helped develop the menu that is very similar to the one served today.
Quarters BBQ, which served Texas-style BBQ featuring a sweet smoky sauce, steaks, burgers, chicken dinners and more, proved to be popular with dinner time waits topping out at two hours for much of the restaurant’s lifespan, Nellos said.
In the decades that followed, the Nellos’ family would expand the restaurant and liquor store to include locations in the Northeast Heights and on the West Side – though those locations were sold in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
It wasn’t all barbecue and beer. Nellos said Quarters also expanded into real estate with the purchase of multiple buildings around town, including the block of buildings on Yale where the Quarters restaurant and bar, warehouse and liquor store sit.
“I’m still running all three operations, which is something I have to do,” he said. “So as far as history’s concerned, it’s been a hell of a ride.”
Nellos said COVID-19, and the resulting aftermath of the pandemic, played a large role in his decision to close the restaurant.
“I always felt we would be able to survive it, but as time went on, I couldn’t get any help and I couldn’t do it alone because I’m now 82 years old, I can’t run a business like I used to,” he said.
He said the sky-rocketing costs of food and labor made running the restaurant near impossible, but ultimately, he said, the responsibility for the closure rests mainly on politicians for their response to pandemic and insufficient aid for small businesses.
“The politicians are the one reason we’re not opening anymore,” Nellos said. “… As far as the restaurant is concerned, thank you, politicians, for ruining our business”