Players set to close in November to make way for new UT building

Eleanor Dearman

Players is closing down after 33 years of feeding the UT community’s late-night burger cravings.

The University purchased the restaurant in 2012 for University expansion from owners Carlos Oliveira and Edward Hempe. When the University approached them with the offer to buy the property, Hempe said they agreed and made a deal that allowed Players to continue operating until the University was ready to take over the property. The owners received $4 million as compensation for the sale, $1 million of which would be used to fund the restaurant for, at most, 10 years.

“We were hoping to get to 40 years or maybe 50, you never know,” Oliveira said. “But the way things transpired, it probably worked out for the best.”

The Players property and surrounding area will be the site of the new Robert B. Rowling Hall, a separate graduate student building for the McCombs School of Business. The building will have an underground expansion of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, a food service area and a 400 space parking garage. 

The University announced in May that the $172 million project would be completed in 2017. Oliveira and Hempe also received an email in May from Kirk S. Tames, the University’s interim executive director of real estate, notifying the owners that Players must be closed by Nov. 30. In the email obtained by The Daily Texan, the two were told they would receive $738,773.27 as compensation for the early termination date.

According to Hempe, their contract allowed the University to ask Players to close at any time, as long as the restaurant was given six months’ notice. Hempe said they were given warnings the notice was coming a few weeks before it was officially sent in May.

“We figured it would take them two-three years to get all their dominos in a row, and that’s about what it took,” Hempe said.

Oliveira and Hempe opened Players in 1981 at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and Whitis Avenue, offering around-the-clock service to students and other locals.

“We thought it would be a good idea to have something here for the students,” Oliveira said. “We were one of the first places to be open 24 hours. We got a lot of the late night business, and it kind of transformed from there.”

After 33 years of business, Oliveira said Players gained many regulars and served everyone from students and government workers to athletes and politicians. He said their support is what kept the restaurant running for so long.

“We hit a second-generation years ago,” Oliveira said. “It’s pretty neat to see the parents, then their kids both coming to UT 25, 30 years apart.”

Hempe said there are three smaller Players locations at various golf courses around Austin that he and Oliveira will focus on and relocate many of their current employees to.

According to Hempe, he and Oliveira are open to starting a new main restaurant if they can find a comparable property, but he said that seems unlikely.

“Right now we have a half-acre in the middle of Austin with parking and a drive through,” Hempe said. “To duplicate that is going to be real difficult for us. We’re looking, but we haven’t found anything that would suit our needs.”