The Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant on Janesville’s northeast side has closed permanently, its owner has confirmed.
Scott Acker said Monday afternoon that the restaurant had seen slow sales. He said that trend steadily worsened “over the last 13 to 15 months” amid work on the Interstate 90/39 expansion project.
In recent months, construction has diverted northbound traffic to I-90/39’s southbound side through Janesville.
Acker said the freeway tear-up has hurt business at the casual burger-and-chicken-wing chain restaurant at 3111 Wellington Place, just east of the I-90/39-Highway 14 interchange.
“The lack of sales and the road construction has hurt us daily. If people aren’t able to get off the freeway, they’re not able to eat at the restaurant. That’s been rough, and it’s only going to get rougher,” he said.
Acker opened the Quaker Steak & Lube in 2013 after renovating the 8,000-square-foot location that until 2010 had housed a Damon’s Grill. The Janesville Quaker Steak & Lube was one of three locations Acker operated in Wisconsin.
The decision to close came Monday, Acker said. A restaurant employee confirmed that the location had shut its doors earlier in the day.
Acker had operated Quaker Steak locations in New Berlin and Middleton, although the New Berlin Quaker Steak closed in March. Acker said he turned over the New Berlin location to a different owner through a “lease transfer.” The location has since become another restaurant—Point Burger Bar.
Acker said the New Berlin location closed for different reasons than the Janesville location. He did not elaborate.
Quaker Steak & Lube operates about 50 locations nationwide. Travel Centers of America bought out Quaker Steak in 2015, shortly after the restaurant chain went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The Middleton location remains open, according to Quaker Steak’s corporate website.
Acker said Quaker Steak has an active lease at the Janesville location even though the restaurant is closed.
“All the employees will be paid,” he said. “We’ll leave Janesville gracefully.”
In 2015, Acker was one of several business operators who voiced uneasiness over the state Department of Transportation’s expansion of I-90/39 from four lanes to six between Beloit and Madison, and from four lanes to eight through Janesville.
He told The Gazette after a DOT information session that he was concerned about the specter of construction tear-ups and potential detours.
At the time, the DOT was mulling a plan to detour traffic or set up a loop ramp at the I-90/39-Highway 14 interchange that would alter the flow of traffic on and off the freeway during the project.
The DOT later altered those plans, but at the time, Acker made it clear his business depended on traffic coming off the Interstate.
“After Labor Day, it’s like lights out,” Acker told a Gazette reporter in 2015.
On Monday, Acker said the Highway 14 corridor has picked up several new restaurants since Quaker Steak opened. He said it’s become a more competitive dining corridor vying for a finite number of Interstate travelers. And those travelers, Acker believes, have begun to make a beeline past Janesville to avoid the construction zone.
“You have to be able to get to the location,” he said. “That’s just people passing Janesville by. There’s too many construction barrels, too much construction.”