Bubba's Diner closes, owners vow to open again in Sumter

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 6/24/18

June 12 turned out to be a tough day for Bubba Rabon in more ways than one.

As a candidate for the District 2 seat on Sumter County Council, Rabon lost a tight Republican primary race to incumbent Artie Baker, who achieved 51.4 percent of the …

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Bubba's Diner closes, owners vow to open again in Sumter

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June 12 turned out to be a tough day for Bubba Rabon in more ways than one.

As a candidate for the District 2 seat on Sumter County Council, Rabon lost a tight Republican primary race to incumbent Artie Baker, who achieved 51.4 percent of the public's vote.

Rabon and his wife, Cathy, also decided that day to close Bubba's Diner, which they previously co-owned together and still operated. Last week, the store's marquee at 841 Broad St. read it was closed, and several of his bigger wooden campaign signs were positioned in the parking lot to block entry into the lot.

Bubba's Diner opened in 2009. The breakfast and lunch eatery was open seven days a week and was popular in town for its doughnuts, fried chicken and Southern cuisine.

Last fall, Sumter School District officially purchased the diner and an adjoining lot from the Rabons for $890,000 with long-term plans to construct a new technical high school/center on site.

The Rabons were in a month-to-month lease with the district for the restaurant's property and had initially envisioned possibly keeping Bubba's open another two to three years. That is at least until the district decided to move forward with its school and they could find another Sumter location for a new restaurant.

When contacted Friday, Rabon said he was forced to close the diner because he couldn't afford to fix necessary roof and air-conditioning problems associated with the 40-plus-year-old facility in the present rental situation. He said those repairs would have cost about $60,000.

"I couldn't afford to spend all that money for a new roof and air conditioning knowing I would only be there for a couple years," Rabon said. "I couldn't justify that."

The Rabons also recently renovated and opened a new restaurant in downtown Manning - Mills Street Grill - in partnership with Charles Hodge.

Rabon said many of the diner's patrons have already visited Manning to eat their favorite country cuisine at Mills Street, at 201 S. Mill St., and he encouraged others to do the same.

However, Rabon vowed he will reopen a new restaurant in Sumter in the near future.

"We thank the people of Sumter for a great 10 years, and we love the people of Sumter and are in the process of locating another restaurant in town," Rabon said. "I already put all the equipment from the diner in storage for a new place down the road."

Rabon said he hasn't ironed out all the details for a new Sumter restaurant yet and hasn't decided if he will change the name or keep it the same.