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Paula Deen Abruptly Closes Uncle Bubba’s in Savannah

Paula Deen Abruptly Closes Uncle Bubba’s in Savannah

Paula Deen and her brother have closed the restaurant that was once at the center of her infamous racism scandal

Without any advance warning, Uncle Bubba's has shuttered after ten years.

Paula Deen and her brother Earl ‘Bubba’ Hiers have quite suddenly closed her Savannah restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House, after 10 years of service. Deen’s now infamous racism scandal began at Uncle Bubba’s, when a former manager filed a lawsuit against her, claiming sexual harassment as well as a hostile and racist work environment.

There doesn’t seem to be any love lost between Deen and her staff. According to TMZ, restaurant employees found out about the closure when they showed up for work on the morning of April 3rd to find the restaurant’s equipment and signage being removed. On Facebook, the company wrote only, "Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba's is now closed." The page has since been deleted.

Later, Don Logana, a news reporter from WTOC Savannah, posted another message from Paula Deen’s representatives, which stated that Bubba Hiers had decided to close the restaurant to explore other development options and that employees would be provided with severance based on position and tenure.

The end of Uncle Bubba’s, however, is far from the end of Paula Deen, if she has any say about it. Earlier this year, Deen announced plans to open a new restaurant in Tennessee, as well as the launch of Paula Deen Ventures, a multi-faced business empire backed by a private investment firm.

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.


Deen was born Paula Ann Hiers in Albany, Georgia, [3] the daughter of Corrie A. Hiers (née Paul) and Earl Wayne Hiers, Sr. [5] Deen was 19 when her father died unexpectedly aged 40, and her mother died four years later aged 44. [6] Prior to her father's death, Paula, aged 18, married Jimmy Deen and in 1967 they had their first son James ("Jamie"), and in 1970 a second son Robert ("Bobby") was born. In her 20s, Deen suffered from depression and agoraphobia and began to spend more time preparing food for her family, as it was something she could do without leaving her house. [7] Deen's cooking style had been informed by her grandmother Irene Paul, who had taught her the art of Southern cooking [8] that Deen described as “real farmhouse cooking, the kind that takes all day”. [7] In 1989, Deen and her husband Jimmy divorced. [9] Needing to support herself, her two sons, and her younger brother Earl ("Bubba"), Deen tried various enterprises [10] before starting a catering service that she called The Bag Lady, [11] making lunches for office workers, which her sons Jamie and Bobby delivered. [10]

Following the success of Deen's home–based business she took over the restaurant in the Best Western, Abercorn Street, Savannah in 1991 and called it The Lady. In January 1996, after five years at the Best Western, [12] Deen, together with her sons Jamie and Bobby, opened their own restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in downtown Savannah, on West Congress Street. Within a few years, the restaurant moved to the old White Hardware building on Whitaker. Deen also opened four casino buffets they were at Harrah's Casino Tunica in Mississippi, Harrah's Cherokee casino in North Carolina, Horseshoe Southern Indiana, and Harrah's Joliet in Illinois. They were rebranded in 2013 shortly after Deen was removed from the Food Network. [13] In addition to these, Deen co-owned Uncle Bubba's Oyster House in Savannah Georgia. The restaurant closed in April 2014 [14] [15] and reopened in June 2017 as Paula Deen's Creek House. [16] In 2015, Deen opened Paula Deen's Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, [17] and in June 2017, opened another in the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at Broadway at the Beach. [18] In 2018, Deen opened two Paula Deen restaurants in Texas, but both closed the following year. [19] [20] In 2020, Deen opened a Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee, [21] and in 2021, another in Panama City Beach. [22]

In 1997, Deen self-published The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook and The Lady & Sons, Too! A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah . Both cookbooks featured traditional Southern recipes. [23] She has since published two more, written with Martha Nesbit. Deen has appeared on QVC and on The Oprah Winfrey Show (first in 2002, twice in 2007 and once in 2010). Her life story is featured in Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success (2007, Sourcebooks). In April 2007, Simon & Schuster published Deen's memoir, It Ain't All About the Cookin'. She launched a lifestyle magazine called Cooking with Paula Deen in November 2005, [24] which claimed a circulation of 7.5 million in March 2009. [25] As of 2021, the magazine is still being published monthly. In 2015, Paula Deen Ventures signed a distribution agreement with Hachette Client Services for future cookbooks. [26] [27] In 2019, Deen released her latest cookbook, Paula Deen’s Southern Baking. [28]

Deen's relationship with Food Network began in 1999, when a friend introduced her to Gordon Elliott. [6] Elliott took her through the city for a series of Doorknock Dinners episodes. Deen was invited to shoot a pilot named Afternoon Tea in early 2001. The network liked it, and eventually gave Deen her own show, Paula's Home Cooking, which premiered in November 2002. Paula's Home Cooking was originally taped in Millbrook, New York at Elliott's home, [6] and later, recorded at Deen's own home in Savannah, Georgia. [29]

Deen presented two more Food Network shows, Paula's Party and Paula's Best Dishes. [31] Paula's Party premiered on the Food Network in 2006 [32] and Paula's Best Dishes debuted in June 2008. [33] A televised biography of Deen was aired as an episode of the Food Network's Chefography program, in March 2006. [34]

On June 21, 2013, due to a controversy regarding Deen's admission that she had used racial slurs in a social media post, The Food Network announced they would not renew her contract. [35] In March 2015, Deen launched the Paula Deen Channel on Roku. [36] In September 2015, Deen was announced as one of the celebrities to compete on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Louis van Amstel. [37] The couple was eliminated in the sixth week of competition, finishing in 9th place overall. In October 2016, Deen launched a syndicated television show, Positively Paula. Deen also appears on the home shopping network ShopHQ selling a variety of merchandise including kitchen appliances and food products.

On April 7, 2021, it was announced that Paula Deen is set to join Masterchef as a guest host for the 11th season premiering in June 2021. Deen, along with other well–known cooks, such as Emeril Lagasse, will join Gordon Ramsay to mentor 15 home cooks through a series of challenges. [38]

In 2004, Deen married Michael Groover (born 1956), a tugboat captain in the Port of Savannah, Georgia. [39] Deen has two children from a previous marriage, as does Groover. The wedding was featured in a Food Network show in 2004 and took place at Bethesda Academy in Savannah. [40]

Paula is a supporter of Bethesda Academy, and asked Old Savannah Tours to donate $1 to the organization for each ticket purchased for the Paula Deen Store ticket sale. [40]

Deen made her film debut in Elizabethtown (2005), starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. She played the aunt of Bloom's character, and her cooking was featured. A Food Network special, Paula Goes Hollywood, aired in conjunction with the film's premiere. [41]

In June 2007, Deen won a Daytime Emmy Award (Outstanding Lifestyle Host) for Paula's Home Cooking. [42] In October 2010, she was selected as the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade, and presided over the 2011 Rose Parade before the Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2011. [43]

Use of sugar in recipes Edit

Deen was criticized for her use of sugar by Christina Pirello, a "natural food" advocate, and television chef. [44] Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set, a cookbook aimed at children, was criticized by Barbara Walters saying of the book, "You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast. You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch. And french fries. Doesn't it bother you that you're adding to this?" Paula Deen replied "All things in moderation." [45] Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain commented in 2011 that he "would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us". [46] On January 17, 2012, Deen announced that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years before. Deen became a paid spokesperson for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk which produces drugs for that disease. [47]

Racial slur controversy Edit

In June 2013, Deen was sued by Lisa Jackson for racial and sexual discrimination. [48] Jackson said that Deen made derogatory remarks regarding African Americans. [49] Jackson also said that Deen mused about wedding plans for her brother with a "true Southern plantation-style theme" with black male servers but rejected the plans "because the media would be on me about that". The case was heard in August 2013, with the judge dismissing the suit with prejudice. [50] [51] [52] Both sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit "without any award of costs or fees to any party". [53] [54] Deen stated in her deposition that she had used the "N-word" at times. [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] Specifically, she recalled telling her husband about an incident "when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head. . I didn't feel real favorable towards him." [60] Asked if she had used the word since then, she said: "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time [. ] maybe in repeating something that was said to me . probably a conversation between blacks. I don't – I don't know. But that's just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the '60s in the south." [60]

In the time between the filing of the suit and the suit being dismissed, Deen had cookery programs, publishing deals and endorsement contracts cancelled by Food Network, [61] Smithfield Foods, [62] Walmart, [63] Target, QVC, [64] Caesars Entertainment, [13] Novo Nordisk, [65] J.C. Penney, [66] Sears/ Kmart, [67] and her then-publisher Ballantine Books [68] however, several companies have expressed their intent to continue their endorsement deals with Deen. [69] During the same time, sales of Deen's cookbooks soared. [70] Former US President Jimmy Carter urged that Deen be forgiven, stating, "I think she has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting it and for the use of the word in the distant past. She's apologized profusely." [71]

I Love Lucy controversy Edit

In July 2015, Deen faced controversy over a Halloween picture from 2011 in which Paula was dressed as Lucy Ricardo played by Lucille Ball while her son Bobby was dressed as Lucy's Cuban husband Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnaz, in brownface makeup, along with Gordon Elliott who was not in costume. [72] [73] The photo was taken from a holiday-themed episode of her former Food Network show Paula's Best Dishes with a tweet mimicking Arnaz's accented English on the show. [74] The material was taken down quickly.


Paula Deen Abruptly Shuts Down Restaurant Without Informing Employees

It's been rough going for Paula Deen, whose public fall from grace transformed her from celebrity chef into tabloid fodder.

Yesterday brought in more bad news (and publicity) for the former Food Network star: Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, the restaurant Deen co-owned with her younger brother Bubba Heirs for over 10 years, has abruptly closed. So abruptly, in fact, that employees were not notified.

Many showed up to work, the Savannah Morning News reported, only to find kitchen appliances being removed from the restaurant severance checks were collected in the parking lot.

While the restaurant failed to notify employees of the shuttering, it did take the time to post a terse announcement on its Facebook page which reportedly read, &ldquoThank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba&rsquos is now closed.&rdquo

Many angry commenters turned to said Facebook page, which has since been taken down, to vent: &ldquoI&rsquove been water works all a.m.,&rdquo wrote one poster, who said she&rsquod been employed there for seven years. &ldquoI&rsquove worked there since I was 16. I woke up this a.m. to no job and no forewarning."

This isn't the first time Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House has been the site of anger and controversy. Last year, Deen was slapped with a racial discrimination law suit from a former employee of the restaurant. While the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, the deposition from the case revealed some highly unsavory details about Deen, who admitted that "of course" she'd used the N-word, and described her desire to throw a wedding reception staffed entirely by middle-aged black men in white jackets so it could be reminiscent of the time before, you know, slavery was outlawed.

Uncle Bubba's may be closed, but Deen's comeback kick continues. Back in February, Arizona-based private equity firm Najafi Companies invested between $75 million and $100 million into Deen&rsquos holding company, Paula Deen Ventures, which announced that it would open its first restaurant, Paula Deen&rsquos Family Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.


Paula Deen's Brother Earl 'Bubba' Hiers Dies at 65: 'We Will Miss Him Dearly'

&ldquoBubba was the greatest brother who was loved by so many people," Deen said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Paula Deen is mourning the loss of her younger brother and former business partner, Earl 𠇋ubba” Wayne Hiers Jr., who died at 65 on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

𠇋ubba was the greatest brother who was loved by so many people,” Deen, 72, said in a statement to PEOPLE. “We will miss him dearly.” Hiers was the only sibling of the former Food Network star. The two grew up in Albany, Ga., to parents Corrie A. Hiers and Earl Wayne Hiers, Sr., both of whom died before Deen was 23.

Deen and Hiers were also joint partners at their restaurant Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, which was located in Savannah, Ga., but abruptly closed its doors in 2014.

Uncle Bubba’s had been a fixture in Savannah for 10 years prior to its closing, but was the center of controversy when Deen and Hiers were sued for harassment by a former employee in 2012. The space is now home to Deen’s newest restaurant, Paula Deen’s Creek House, a business venture with her sons Bobby and Jamie Deen.

WATCH: Paula Deen’s Life After Scandal

Hiers leveraged his sister’s culinary fame to pen his own cookbook, Uncle Bubba’s Savannah Seafood, which was released in 2007 with a foreword written by Deen. According to USA Today, Hiers sang her praises in the book’s introduction: “Without Paula’s support, sensible advice, and unconditional love, I𠆝 probably be a lost soul,” he wrote at the time.

Hiers’ obituary notes that he was preceded in death by his son, Jay Paul Hiers, and leaves behind a daughter and son-in-law, Corrie and Brian Rooks, and a grandson, Sullivan Way Rooks.

His funeral will be held on Friday at Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors, and the family has requested donations be made to the Mayo Clinic.


Paula Deen Suddenly Closes Uncle Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House in Savannah

After 10 years, beleaguered ex-Food Network star Paula Deen and her team have suddenly shuttered Uncle Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia. TMZ reports that employees showed up to work this morning only to find the restaurant closed and its appliances being removed. On the Uncle Bubba's Facebook page the company simply writes: "Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba's is now closed." Paula Deen's racism scandal kicked off at Uncle Bubba's.

It's been a tough year for the Savannah restaurant. Deen's public relations nightmare began when a deposition in a now-dismissed lawsuit brought by a former manager of Uncle Bubba's was leaked. In the deposition Deen admitted to using racial slurs, the resulting scandal costing millions in lost endorsement deals. WTOC's Dan Logana publishes an official statement from Deen's camp on Facebook. Copied below, the statement notes that "employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure" and that the decision was made by owner/operator/Deen's brother Bubba Heirs.

While this might be the end of Uncle Bubba's, this is not the end of Deen's restaurant ambitions. After raising between $75 million and $100 million, Deen recently announced plans to open a new restaurant in Tennessee. Check out the statement on the Uncle Bubba's closure below:

"Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region's freshest seafood and oysters. However, the restaurant's owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located. At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.

The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations."

-Jaret Keller, Deen Spokesperson


Paula Deen, family plan new restaurant

Get your forks ready, y&rsquoall. There&rsquos a new Paula Deen restaurant coming to Whitemarsh Island.

Paula Deen&rsquos Creek House is set to open in June at 104 Bryan Woods Road, the former location of Uncle Bubba&rsquos Seafood and Oyster House, which Paula Deen co-owned with her brother, Earl W. "Bubba" Hiers Jr.

The restaurant will offer wide variety of dishes, including classic fried fish dishes, grilled seafood and Southern favorites such as Jambalaya and shrimp and grits. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

"We&rsquove been so blessed to cook up delicious Southern food for almost 30 years now in own backyard of Georgia," said Paula Deen, said in a press release on Monday.

"I can&rsquot wait to serve up more dishes – but with that coastal, Savannah flair that everyone loves!"

According to the release, Paula Deen&rsquos sons, Jamie and Bobby, will be involved at the new Savannah location. Jamie Deen took to Twitter on Monday to show his excitement for the new location posting a photo of the restaurant&rsquos "coming soon" sign to his account.

"We&rsquoll save y&rsquoall a seat! Coming this summer. #Goodfood," the Tweet read.

The property has been vacant since Uncle Bubba&rsquos closed abruptly in April 2014. At the time Hiers stated he decided to close the restaurant to explore development options for the waterfront property. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant and the 3-acre lot were listed for sale a couple of months later for just under $4 million.


Bubba Hiers, brother of Paula Deen, dies of cancer at 65

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Bubba Hiers, who left behind landscaping to help his celebrity sister Paula Deen grow her Savannah restaurant business as she rose to fame, has died at age 65.

"Bubba was the greatest brother who was loved by so many people," Deen said in an emailed statement Monday. "We will miss him dearly."

Hiers died Thursday from pancreatic cancer, Gamble Funeral Service owner Ed Gamble said.

Named Earl Wayne Hiers Jr. after his father, and nicknamed "Bubba" since childhood, Hiers grew up with Deen in Albany in southwest Georgia. By 2000, Deen was a single mom who had moved across the state to Savannah. Her first business selling bag lunches had been so successful that she opened a small restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in the city's downtown historic district.

"I dreamed that someday my boys and I would find a way to drag Bubba into the business with us," Deen wrote in the foreward to Hiers' 2007 cookbook, "Uncle Bubba's Savannah Seafood."

Hiers sold his landscaping business in Albany and joined his sister in Savannah not long before the Food Network launched the show "Paula's Home Cooking" in 2002, soon making Deen famous for deep-fried cuisine. Deen wrote that Hiers helped her buy and renovate a larger building that expanded her restaurant from 90 seats to a multifloor eatery serving up to 2,000 meals each day.

Deen tried to help Hiers find his own space in the limelight. With her financial backing, he opened Uncle Bubba's Oyster House in 2004 overlooking the scenic marshes east of Savannah. A few years later, Hiers published his cookbook, which also featured his sister's name on the cover.

"Without Paula's support, sensible advice, and unconditional love, I'd probably be a lost soul," Hiers wrote in the cookbook's introduction.

Both Hiers and Deen paid a heavy toll after a former Uncle Bubba's manager filed a lawsuit that accused Hiers of sexual harassment. A transcript of Deen's legal deposition in the case became public in 2013, and included her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.

Fallout from Deen's widely publicized deposition caused the Food Network to cancel her show in June 2013. Uncle Bubba's closed abruptly the following year, after the lawsuit was settled out of court.

After that "he kind of dropped off the map," said Polly Powers Stramm, a Savannah author who co-wrote Hiers' cookbook.

"He was pretty talented in his own right. He could cook and all that, hunt and fish," Stramm said. "He was always very much a gentleman to me."


Paula Deen Abruptly Shuts Down Restaurant Without Informing Employees

It's been rough going for Paula Deen, whose public fall from grace transformed her from celebrity chef into tabloid fodder.

Yesterday brought in more bad news (and publicity) for the former Food Network star: Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, the restaurant Deen co-owned with her younger brother Bubba Heirs for over 10 years, has abruptly closed. So abruptly, in fact, that employees were not notified.

Many showed up to work, the reported, only to find kitchen appliances being removed from the restaurant severance checks were collected in the parking lot.

While the restaurant failed to notify employees of the shuttering, it did take the time to post a terse announcement on its Facebook page which reportedly read, “Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba’s is now closed.”

Many angry commenters turned to said Facebook page, which has since been taken down, to vent: “I’ve been water works all a.m.,” wrote one poster, who said she’d been employed there for seven years. “I’ve worked there since I was 16. I woke up this a.m. to no job and no forewarning."

This isn't the first time Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House has been the site of anger and controversy. Last year, Deen was slapped with a racial discrimination law suit from a former employee of the restaurant. While the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, the deposition from the case revealed some highly unsavory details about Deen, who admitted that "of course" she'd used the N-word, and described her desire to throw a wedding reception staffed entirely by middle-aged black men in white jackets so it could be reminiscent of the time before, you know, slavery was outlawed.

Uncle Bubba's may be closed, but Deen's comeback kick continues. Back in February, Arizona-based private equity firm Najafi Companies invested between $75 million and $100 million into Deen’s holding company, Paula Deen Ventures, which announced that it would open its first restaurant, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.


Paula Deen Abruptly Shuts Down Restaurant, Forgets To Tell Employees

Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House— the home of Paula Deen's 2013 racism scandal — has closed its doors, and employees of the restaurant were the very last to know.

The Washington Post reports that those who showed up to their Thursday morning shift at the Savannah, GA eatery were met with locked doors. The Savannah Morning News reported that employees were collecting their severance checks in the parking lot.

The Facebook page of the eatery had just a simple message posted to the top of its fan page:

Commenters put the restaurant management on blast for not informing its employees of the decision to close before posting to social media and shutting the doors.

Deen co-owned Uncle Bubba’s with her brother, Bubba Heirs.

Deen made cringeworthy headlines when a former employee of Uncle Bubba’s filed a lawsuit claiming she had experienced sexual harassment and racial discrimination while working at the restaurant. In a deposition for the case, Deen admitted unapologetically that she’d used the N-word, which ended up costing her millions in lost endorsement deals.

Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region's freshest seafood and oysters. However, the restaurant's owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located. At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.

The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations.


Uncle Bubba's, co-owned by Paula Deen and her brother, closes after 10 years

As long-time employees collected severance checks in the parking lot, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House announced its closing Thursday morning on its website and Facebook page.

"Thank you for 10 great years," the written comment stated, "Uncle Bubba's is now closed."

The Whitemarsh Island restaurant is co-owned by Paula Deen and her younger brother, Earl W. "Bubba" Hiers Jr.

It was at the center of a storm of negative publicity Deen weathered last year after a former Uncle Bubba's employee filed a lawsuit alleging racial and sexual discrimination. In a deposition, Deen admitted she had used a racial slur 30 years earlier.

The claims and lawsuit were eventually dismissed but not before she lost millions in national endorsements and the Food Network announced it would not renew her contract.

Hiers decided "to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located," he said in a written statement released through the Key Group Worldwide, a New York-based public relations firm.

The 350-seat, nearly 10,000-square-foot restaurant sits on 2.7 acres. Its most recent tax assessment puts the property value at $1.5 million. Brother & Sister Enterprises LLC acquired it in 2004 for $2 million, tax records indicate.

"At this point, no specific plans have been announced, and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property," the prepared statement continued. "The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations."

A spokesman for the New York firm did not respond to the question of how many people were employed by Uncle Bubba's.

In Hiers' deposition in 2013 he testified that he frequently viewed pornography on company-owned sites at work and had a history of cocaine use and alcohol abuse. He admitted taking money from the restaurant in 2010 - allegedly as much as $25,000 to $30,000 a month, a practice Deen eventually discovered. He said his sister was in control of the business but it was never a big moneymaker.

"The company had never shown a lot of profit," Hiers testified.

The health department last inspected Uncle Bubba's in February. It received a score of 83 with points deducted for repeated violations of proper hand-washing procedures and improper temperature holding of potentially hazardous foods.

Late Thursday morning a barrier blocked traffic to the former restaurant's parking lot where a uniformed police officer turned some vehicles away and let others pass.

Savannah-Chatham police patrol cars remained in the area for much of the morning people gathered near the roadblock declined to speak about the establishment's closing or why a roadblock with police officers was set up.

Some long-term employees were shocked to discover they no longer had a job and turned to the restaurant's Facebook page to vent.

"I've been water works all a.m.," wrote one poster who said she'd been employed there for seven years. "I've worked there since I was 16. I woke up this a.m. to no job and no forewarning."

Earlier this year Deen signed a deal with Phoenix-based private investment firm Najafi Cos. worth between $75 million and $100 million. Called Paula Deen Ventures, the partnership will be the umbrella name for Deen's many brands.

Its first major investment will be Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, a $20 million, 20,000-square-foot restaurant and retail operation, scheduled to open in late summer in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., home of the Dollywood theme park.

A statement released by Najafi in February when the partnership was announced praised Deen's The Lady & Sons as "one of the country's most popular regional restaurants."