SOUTHINGTON — Que Whiskey Kitchen on Queen Street closed its doors last week but business leaders expect another operator to take over the property soon.
In a statement released Monday, Hartford Restaurant Group co-founder and co-CEO Phil Barnett said closing the restaurant would allow company leaders to focus on Wood-n-Tap locations, which the company also owns.
“We were very proud of Que,” Barnett wrote. “But we are in the midst of expanding our Wood-n-Tap restaurants to surrounding states… We have decided the best use of our resources was to close Que and fine tune our growth strategy.”
Hartford Restaurant Group owns the property at 461 Queen St. Barnett said the company is looking to sell or lease it. Barnett has already received several offers for the property and is considering them.
Que Whiskey Kitchen opened in 2018. The company has a Wood-n-Tap location at 420 Queen St. Other area Wood-n-Tap locations include Wallingford, Farmington and Hamden.
Que gift certificates are good at Wood-n-Tap locations, the company said.‘Queen Street is gold’
Ralph Calabrese, a commercial real estate broker, has worked with local developers such as John Senese to fill space on Queen Street. Calabrese said he has a list of interested tenants looking to find vacant commercial space along that stretch near the Interstate 84 exit ramp where Que was located.
“I get calls every day, ‘What do you have down there?’” he said. “There’s just nothing available.”
Part of the draw is the high traffic count and easy highway access. The presence of other retail and restaurants is also a draw for businesses.
“All the tenants you want to be with are there, all the draws,” Calabrese said. “Retail wants to be with retail.”
“Queen Street is gold,” he said.Former HowardJohnson’s
The site has been home to many restaurants over the years, including Howard Johnson’s, Bickford’s, Gold Roc II Diner and TD Homer’s.
Dominick Gualtieri, owner of Fancy Bagels at 405 Queen St., said he thought Que was a good place but understood the owners’ desire to focus on a growing regional brand. In addition to barbecue, Que specialized in whiskeys and bourbons.
“Their food was good. These guys know what they’re doing,” he said.
Gualtieri said the site was prominent as a Howard Johnson’s due to the peaked roof on the building at the time. Other restaurants have come and gone since.
The only potential downside to the location was that it doesn’t have a traffic signal. That can make turning from the southbound Queen Street lanes difficult, especially during busy dinner hours.
Still, Gualtieri expected another business to move in soon. The building was totally renovated when Que moved in.
“They did a beautiful job on it. Their patio’s awesome,” he said. “I think somebody would take it. They’d be crazy not to.”
“I don’t see it staying vacant too long,” Gualtieri said. “It’s still a prime spot right off the highway.”