Goodnight Sweet Players

For 33 years, Players sat on the corner of Martin Luther King and Guadalupe, a welcome respite for those looking for a reliable burger dive. That’s approximately 1,716 weeks of cheap beer flowing into cups before football games. 12,045 days of lunch crowds and late-night burgers and shakes.

On Monday, though, Players flipped one last burger and closed its doors for good. Their land, bought by the university for $4 million in 2012, will become a new graduate building for the McCombs School of Business. Carlos Oliveira, BS ’83, who co-owns the restaurant with Eddie Hempe, BBA ’90, Life Member, says there’s no plan to relocate.

“Rent’s got so damn high around here that we can’t afford it,” Oliveira says. “We’ve got the golf course concession stands at all the local golf courses … We’ve been doing that for 15, 20 years; probably keep doing those.”

Farewell crowds mobbed the restaurant during its final weekend, from regulars who would drink in the outdoor biergarten every Friday to the former students looking for one last shake to wash down the nostalgia. Everyone seemed to have a Players story.

“This has ghosts here for me,” says patron Ron Swafford, BA ’00. Swafford has been a regular at Players since before college, initially coming to watch sports games as a teenager. He passed the tradition on to his son before the restaurant closed.

“Players has served a bunch of functions for me: date place, place for me to watch TV when I don’t have electricity,” Swafford says. “I [even] came here to watch the NBA playoffs with my 14-year-old kid. ”

Other patrons also have a deep connection to Players. Millie Gleckler brought her 10-year-old son, Joseph Nava, to one of his favorite places after school every day until the restaurant shut down.

“It’s our thing to do,” Gleckler says. “I pick him up after school and we come to Players. [We] started about a year ago. It’s great.”

“On a scale of one to 10 how much I like Players … probably 10,” Nava says with a mouth full of chicken tenders.

Gleckler says she was proud the owners fought the University buyout. “I just didn’t know how it would play out,” she says.

Gloria Lenoir, MBA ’79, PhD ’11, Life Member, another longtime patron, was melancholy as she left Players with her husband for the last time.

“We love this place,” Lenoir says. “My husband was just saying, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’”

Photos by Anna Donlan

 

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