Archived News

Paula Deen restaurant shut down at Cherokee casino

Cook and television personality Paula Deen has gotten into hot butter in recent weeks over allegations of racism, prompting Caesar’s Entertainment to shut the Paula Deen’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort.


Paula Deen Enterprises had an agreement with Caesar’s Entertainment, Harrah’s parent company, to operate Deen-themed restaurants in four Caesar’s locations, including Cherokee.

But those restaurants have closed after the 66-year-old Deen admitted to using the N-word in the past. The information came to light because a former female employee has sued Deen and her brother, claiming she was discriminated against when she worked at one of Deen’s restaurants in Georgia. A couple weeks ago, a court deposition from Deen was made public.

In the deposition, Deen recalled using the N-word after a black man had robbed the bank she once worked at and held a gun to her head. She later said that she had used it other times as well but did not remember when or how often. Deen did clarify that she doesn’t use the word anymore.

“That’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the 60s in the South,” Deen said in the deposition. She went on the Today Show last week to apologize and said she is not a racist.

Related Items

Still, Caesar’s has decided to sever ties with Paula Deen Enterprises, as have other companies such as Walmart and the Food Network. 

“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment, in a news release last week.

The restaurant location inside Harrah’s Cherokee Casino will be rebranded. A new menu is currently in the works as is a new name. The untitled eatery will take on a coffee shop appeal and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“That is the type of thing that we need here,” said Leeann Bridges, vice president of marketing for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort.

At the entrance of Paula Deen’s Kitchen is a gift shop peddling Deen’s recipe books and cookware. The casino will sell off the last of its Paula Deen goods and then convert the shop into a lounge area, Bridges said. And despite having to revamp the look and feel of the former Paula Deen’s Kitchen, the restaurant space is and will remain open.

“We don’t anticipate closing at all, especially for this time of year,” Bridges said. “We are very motivated to make everything seamless.”

The biggest struggle for Harrah’s will be ensuring that people know the restaurant location is open — albeit not as Paula Deen’s — and are aware of its new motif.

“We will have to go out and have a campaign to really support our new restaurant,” Bridges said.

Following the decision by Caesar’s, members of the public commented that the casino operator and media are making a mountain out of a molehill.

“You have people who are very passionate and who are very supportive of Paula Deen who are not happy with our decision,” Bridges said, adding that some have gone as far as to say they will no longer patronize Harrah’s Cherokee. “Then we have had other people who are supportive of the decision.”

Thus far, the casino has not seen a negative or positive change in revenues from Paula Deen’s Kitchen.

“We have not seen a drop off or anything like that,” Bridges said.

Leave a comment

1 comment

  • I know this is 2022 and this took place in 2013! But this is complete BS! Miss Leeann Bridges I hope you were stripped of your title and you were fired as well! Paula Deen admitted she said this years ago yet you stripped this good woman of her title and she lost everything because of this! Yet black celebrities can throw off all the white people call us bad names and nothing bad comes of it for them! I’m so sick to death the race card been put in to play with everything now we’ve had hysterical Land Marks removed! Dixie stampede had the name Dixie removed because you cannot say the name Dixie anymore dixie Chicks had to change their name to the chicks! Because of this BLM BS it should be all lives matter! And there is racism coming from both sides! In taking away our confederate landmarks is wrong taking away the confederate flag is wrong the landmarks are not racist the confederate flag is not racist people are racist! And if you don’t learn from history you’re doomed to repeat it

    posted by Namenotimportant

    Friday, 05/20/2022

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.