ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque barbeque staple is closing its doors after 52 years of service. KRQE talked to the owner about the restaurant’s last day and why he said it was time to hang up the apron.

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“It hurts me to get out because I had so many good customers,” said Constantine Nellos, owner of Quarters BBQ on Yale. He opened the joint up back in 1970 after getting his chef friend, Henry, to run the kitchen.

“Henry didn’t like where he was. So, I bought this place here and says ‘Henry, you can have the kitchen and I’ll just do the bar,’ he says ‘ok,'” said Nellos. “Everything else is history now.”

But now, the restaurant is closing. “I have no other choice at this point for what I’m going to do,” said Nellos. He said with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting fallout, keeping the restaurant doors open is not feasible.

“COVID has hurt us tremendously. The labor market has hurt us tremendously. And the politicians have hurt us – nobody’s even come in and applied for a job. Nobody, not one person,” he said. “It’s all economics in my opinion and the economics don’t work for this business.”

He explained he can’t raise wages for employees without raising menu prices to make ends meet. Nellos, who owns multiple buildings on the block, also said at 82 years old, it’s time for him to take a step back.

“Someone young has to come in and do it – someone young that’s got the vim and vigor that I used to have. I have the vigor but I don’t have the vim,” he said. The restaurant rang out its last day open on Friday with a bang. It was so packed Nellos said they ran out of food at one point.

“It hit Facebook. All of a sudden, all of the old girls who used to work here showed up. The whole family showed up. This whole side was full of people who worked with me over the years,” he said. It was a bittersweet goodbye that couldn’t have gone better.

“A lot of memories. And that’s basically what it boiled down to. Memories,” he said. “It was the perfect last day, it was.”

Nellos is looking for a new business to lease the space. He will keep the bar attached to the restaurant space open and plans to serve the liquor for whatever business takes up the restaurant space.