H. Harper Station’s last day of service set for April 1

High rent, lows margin are behind decision to shutter cocktail mainstay
Photo courtesy of H. Harper Station
Photo courtesy of H. Harper Station

When bartender Jerry Slater and chef Duane Nutter opened H. Harper Station in an 80-year-old former train depot on the southern edge of Reynoldstown in fall 2010, the stretch of Memorial Drive surrounding the restaurant could most charitably be described as “sketchy.” Nutter moved on the following year, but the self-proclaimed “modern watering stop” garnered local and national plaudits for its long list of original cocktails and one of the city’s top whisky selections. However, having the love of cocktail connoisseurs doesn’t guarantee lines out the door, and the business often found itself struggling to fill tables.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Slater has now made the tough decision to close up shop after five and half years. H. Harper Station is not moving elsewhere; it is simply closing. As for whether the landlord, Cartel Properties, has another tenant in mind, we’re still waiting to hear back from them.

If you’re a longtime H. Harper Station patron like me (full disclosure: I count Jerry and Krista as friends and endorsees) then you already know the impact Slater has had in helping expand and improve the city’s bar scene. In addition to serving as a reliable expert resource for booze journalists, he helped train some of the area’s top barkeeps, including Julian Goglia of The Pinewood and The Mercury fame and Mercedes O’Brien of nearby Gunshow. Here’s hoping the Slaters find a way to ply their trade in Atlanta again soon.

Here is Slater’s official statement to longtime patrons and fans:

“I wish to inform everyone that H. Harper Station will conduct its last service on April 1st, 2016. No, this is not an April Fool’s, but I do hope everyone will pay us a last visit in the two weeks leading up to 4/1/16.

Harper Station opened in late 2010, still in the midst of the economic recession. The promise of the coming BeltLine and potential Memorial Drive development made the extravagant rent seem possible at the time. I guess you can say I was an early adopter, but I loved the idea of having a place in my own emerging and diverse neighborhood of Reynoldstown. While signs point to the area’s impending development coming to fruition, it also brings the pressure of increased costs. After a great five-year run, we feel the model is no longer sustainable. We wish the best to the new tenant and the neighborhood they will service.

This building will always be special to me. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting my wife at H. Harper Station, I got to marry her at the restaurant in a wonderful ceremony surrounded by friends and family. We have hosted the weddings of other dear friends, or regular guests, who in turn became friends. There has been an amazing amount of memories shared here, both with guests of the restaurant, and the warm hospitality community in Atlanta, which welcomed me eight years ago with open arms.

In September of last year, Krista and I moved to Morgan County, near Madison. We both have been enjoying the peace of a more rural home, and I have gotten to be closer to my parents, who believed in me enough to finance H. Harper Station initially. I have also been able to assist my mom, the person who taught me the hard work and dedication that a restaurant career requires, in doctors appointments and errands. Don’t be surprised to find Krista and me establishing a business in our newfound home. Thanks to all of my hardworking staff, and to all the guests who supported us.” —Jerry Slater