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


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.


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.



There's more to come on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.