I’m sure Paula Deen was counting on a scandal-free 2014, but she can kiss that pipe dream goodbye.
The restaurant at the center of the racism and sexual harassment lawsuit brought against her last year by a former employee and ended up leveling her cooking empire, abruptly shut down Thursday.
And, needless to say, the rest of the chef’s loyal workers are super pissed because they didn’t even get a heads-up the doors to Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House were closing until they found out on Facebook, CB! has learned.
“After I found out on Facebook, I called my manager,” hostess Whitney Messer told Celebuzz. “Not even the managers knew. I asked one of them and she found out like I did.”
The eatery’s online page posted a short statement earlier today: “Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba’s is now closed.”
“So I went up there when I heard police were there,” Messer said, adding that employees were escorted by an officer on site, where she met with a human resources rep.
“Paula had signed over the restaurant to Bubba [Hiers, her brother], so he pulled the plug on it,” she explained.
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.
“We were told he could have closed it today or wait for three months until the busy season was over, which we would have rather him do,” Messer said. “But he didn’t do that because places wouldn’t be hiring.”
Messer, 22, added she stopped by just yesterday to get her tips and was supposed to start a promotion on Friday.
“They were even calling employees about availability next week.”
But there may have been one indication something was amiss.
“We haven’t seen Bubba in like three or four weeks and we usually see him every morning,” she said.
“But not to give us any warning I think is completely stupid.
“A lot of people have been there at least five years and a lot of us could have walked out any time and didn’t. We dealt with a lot of criticism, but we stood by him and the restaurant. It’s a big shock because my whole life has been there. It’s losing a job and a family. It’s hard.”
She revealed each employee was given two weeks severance and references to other restaurants in the Savannah, Georgia area.
“I guess they’re taking care of us, but they went about it the wrong way,” Messer said.
So far, she hasn’t heard of the employees wanting to take legal action.
“This had nothing to do with Paula, nothing to do with racism. In the end, it was Bubba’s restaurant and he could do with it what he wanted.”
But Messer isn’t the only one left scrambling.
Jaime Puckett’s whole family worked at the restaurant and now she has to foot the bills… and she’s six months pregnant.
“Brandi my mother worked there for over 8 years and no one called her!!!” she wrote on Facebook. “My fiance also worked there no one call him, in fact a UB manager called him LAST NIGHT to get his availability for next week!
“Its s (sic) shame how the employees of UB were treated!! I am now left to pick up double shifts at work to make ends meet and I’m six months pregnant,” she added. “I hope Paula enjoys that 75 million she just signed on while all employees of UB are left frantically searching for a job.”
The lawsuit was later dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be filed again, in August 2013. But Deen’s career and public reputation took a major blow after her deposition in the suit revealed she admitted using the “N-word” in the past.