Hamilton invested more than $1M in this downtown building. After a restaurant’s closure, what’s next?

The rooftop dining area opened at Quarter Barrel Brewery + Pub last June at 103 Main St. in Hamilton but the restaurant closed last Thursday. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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The rooftop dining area opened at Quarter Barrel Brewery + Pub last June at 103 Main St. in Hamilton but the restaurant closed last Thursday. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The space vacated by a restaurant that came to Hamilton through a city-based investment fund is not likely to remain dormant for long, officials said.

City officials say they remain positive they can work with Hamilton Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts (CORE) Fund to bring a new tenant to the 103 Main St. building building, the former site of Quarter Barrel Brewery + Pub, which abruptly closed both its Hamilton and Oxford locations Thursday.

“The city was sad to hear Quarter Barrel is closing both of their locations,” City Manager Joshua Smith told the Journal-News Friday. “Small businesses are tough propositions, and we feel for the owners. However, the city has had significant interest in the location in the past 24 hours and have been working with CORE to schedule visits.

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That “significant interest” in at 103 Main St. building more specifically mean a minimum of 10 restaurant groups contacting the city in less than 24 hours, Smith said.

“We’ve had people interested in buying the whole building, leasing, it runs the whole gamut,” he said. “The real estate is going to move pretty fast.”

Quarter Barrel opened in Oxford in 2010. Co-owner Brandon Ney told the Journal-News business there was good at first but eventually declined. It was further hurt in 2014 when Miami University started offering a three-week winter term. That change, he said, meant a six-week break for most students instead of two weeks, meaning fewer profitable weeks for the business.

Launched in December 2012, the Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts (CORE) Fund is a private nonprofit that has raised millions of dollars to acquire blighted properties and make non-traditional loans to developers for projects in the area of High and Main streets in Hamilton.

When CORE offered a long term lease-to-own for the equipment and downtown building it owns and renovated, Ney and co-owner Patrick Karousis thought launching the venture seemed “economically feasible.”

Ney said the partners met with Hamilton officials and Spooky Nook founder Sam Bieler and were sold on the revenue-generating power of the indoor sports complex, which is slated to open in 2021.

“It seemed like it was going to be a no-lose-type situation,” he said.

Quarter Barrel Brewery + Pub opened in Hamilton on Jan. 17, 2018 and rooftop dining with views of the Great Miami River and the city’s downtown launched in June.

The Hamilton location, which offered six of its own brews on tap in addition to 10 guest taps, also touted a farm-to-table menu, bread baked by a family friend, and the majority of its meat from a Butler County farm.

But the farm-to-table concept didn’t catch on and the location was not profitable, Ney said. Running out of money and unable to pay employees, the decision was made to close and work to do so through the liquidation of its assets, he said.

“It was a capital issue, that’s all it is,” Ney said. “It brought us down. Somebody out there has bigger pockets than me and can do it, but we didn’t.”

Quarter Barrel Brewery + Pub provided notice to customers of the closing via a post to its Facebook page.

“To say that we are disappointed is an understatement,” reads the post. “So many of you made us a part of your lives over the last eight years, and we are grateful for your support and friendship. We will miss being together. Thank you for everything.”

CORE Fund Executive Director Michael Dingeldein said the $1.3 million investment into the site included building stabilization, tenant fit-out for interior finishes and tenant equipment.

He said the “upside of this unfortunate event” is that CORE controls those three areas and can transfer them into a new tenant, resetting the building with a new concept even with Quarter Barrel exiting one year into a five-year lease.

Quarter Barrel wasn’t expected to have the economic impact of a Spooky Nook at Champion Mill or The Marcum Apartments, but it was something in which CORE Fund invested and promoted as an example of revitalization efforts in the city.

Smith said the calls Hamilton officials fielded in regard to the now-closed restaurant came from “very successful restaurants” in Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine neighborhood, Oxford and some outside entities who are familiar with the area.

It helps, he said, that the building has approximately 80 public parking spaces within a one block walk and likely the best visibility on Hamilton’s West Side.

“It’s literally the first thing you see when you cross the bridge,” Smith said.

He offered that both restaurants that previously occupied space across Main Street as J. Austin Riverbank and Riverbank Cafe closed for personal or overall financial reasons, but not because of poor performance.

“I’m very confident that anyone can come in that has a sound menu, good customer service and runs a good operation will be very successful at that intersection,” he said.

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