Paula Deen's Restaurant, Site Of Seafood And Slurs, Shuts Down

The restaurant at the center of a lawsuit involving celebrity chef Paula Deen has closed. Uncle Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House in Savannah, Ga., surprised employees by handing out final paychecks Thursday. Deen owned the eatery with her brother Bubba Hiers. A 2012 lawsuit accused the two of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Another chapter today in the saga of Southern food celebrity Paula Deen. Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House has closed its doors. That's the Savannah, Ga., restaurant she owns along with her brother. It was the center of a controversy last year that cost Deen part of her lucrative food empire after she admitted under oath that she had used a racial slur. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: The restaurant's website says: Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba's is now closed. Deen's younger brother, Earl Bubba Hiers, issued a statement saying he closed the restaurant to explore other development options for the waterfront property. In Savannah today, an orange barricade blocks the Spanish moss-draped driveway to Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House. A security guard keeps watch as curious fans like Maryanne Spears(ph) drive past.

MARYANNE SPEARS: Well, I'm upset. I mean, we have all her cookbooks. We've eaten at all her places.

ELLIOTT: Her friend Marilyn Philips(ph) speculates Bubba's closure is more fallout from the racial comment. She says it's not right to keep punishing Deen for saying something offensive.

MARILYN PHILIPS: Who hasn't? Who hasn't? If you never said a racial statement, if you've never cussed anybody, you've never done anybody wrong, then you may throw the first stone.

ELLIOTT: Bubba's was in the spotlight when a former manager filed a discrimination lawsuit alleging a hostile workplace. The case was later dismissed, but not before Deen admitted at a deposition to using racial slurs in the past. The Food Network dropped her and major retailers, including Target and Wal-Mart, quit selling her products. Deen made this tearful apology on NBC's "Today" show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "TODAY")

PAULA DEEN: I can truthfully say in my life I have never, with any intention, hurt anybody on purpose; and I never would.

ELLIOTT: In his deposition, Bubba Hiers admitted to frequently viewing pornography at work and taking money from the restaurant. He testified that Bubba's was never a big moneymaker. That's not surprising, says John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi.

JOHN T. EDGE: This South, this moment, kind of cornball hokum, the kind of "Hee-Haw" South, no longer sells. That kind of old South doesn't sell. I think there's a smarter tourist today, especially among culinary tourists. They're looking for something different, something far more new South than old South.

ELLIOTT: Deen's flagship Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, remains open, and she's expanding Paula Deen Ventures thanks to a $75 million deal with a private investment firm. Debbie Elliott, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There's more to come on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.