Winter Park barbecue restaurant closes shop after 35 years due to labor shortage

Remaining staff moved to Apopka location

Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que's Lee Road location is now permanently closed
Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que's Lee Road location is now permanently closed (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

WINTER PARK, Fla. – A long-time Winter Park restaurant, Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que, has closed for good after 35 years.

The location at 1471 Lee Road closed on Saturday. Bubbalou’s still has three remaining locations in Orlando, Apopka and Altamonte Springs.

The Winter Park restaurant was the first of the four Bubbalou locations. It opened in 1986, according to its website.

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The restaurant announced the closure in an unsigned Facebook post on Saturday.

“This is undoubtedly the hardest post I have ever done… After 35 amazing years, we have locked the doors on Bubbalou’s Winter Park for the final time,” the post reads.

The author went on to blame the pandemic for a loss in business and problems caused by the labor shortage, which is affecting restaurants and other businesses across Central Florida and the entire country.

“Damn this pandemic and the situation we were put in. Business has been off considerably, but the hardest part being the inability to find staff to hire,” the post reads. “We closed our Winter Park store with a whopping four employees. We were closed two whole days per week as well as two half days. It wasn’t by design, it was simply due to the fact we have no staff and can’t find any. Yes, damn you pandemic and the political machine for making it easier to sit at home and collect ridiculous sums of money for doing nothing, than to be an active part of the workforce in our country. It’s pathetic. And it has disastrous results.”

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News 6 reached out to Bubbalou’s for comment on the post. The author of the post identified herself as Boo McKinnon, who has worked at the Lee Road location for 35 years.

“The Winter Park location was closed because we absolutely could not find help. We cannot even get people to come in and apply. It is just the most amazingly sad thing ever,” McKinnon wrote in an email.

She said she did not want to say what the Winter Park Bubbalou’s location was offering to pay new employees.

In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis reinstituted the job search requirement for unemployment benefits in the state of Florida. That same month, he also announced the end of the additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits for people on unemployment in the state of Florida, reducing the maximum amount of benefits Floridians are eligible for to $275 per week.

The Facebook post announcing the closure adds that the four staff members who were still working at the Winter Park location will be moved to the Apopka location.

The founder of Bubbalou’s, Sam Meiner, died earlier this year at the age of 70 from heart failure, according to an obituary in the Orlando Sentinel.


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About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.