Dexter Weaver says his landmark restaurant, Weaver D's, might shut down unless more customers show up soon.
Weaver said he's been falling behind on his bills lately because the economy is bad and people aren't eating out as much as they used to, but he didn't realize how far he was falling behind until Friday, when a man from the gas company threatened to cut off his gas. Monday, he started calling local media to put the word out. "We could go out of business if we don't get some people up in here quick," he said.
Perhaps best known for contributing his slogan, "Automatic for the people," to R.E.M. for the title of their Grammy-winning 1992 album, Weaver has also been honored by the prestigious James Beard Foundation and the Southern Foodways Alliance for his soul-food cooking. He's been in business 26 years.
Patricia Moore, leaving after a late lunch Monday, said she comes to Weaver D's at least once a week. "The food is delicious," she said.
Brenda Brockway, a 1985 University of Georgia graduate from Sarasota, Fla., was in town for the football game last weekend and heard she couldn't leave Athens without going to Weaver D's. "We said 'We got to go,'" Brockway said. "Then we walked in and heard it was closing. It's awful."
Weaver said he hopes business will pick up because the restaurant—while a bit off the beaten path at the corner of East Broad and Willow streets—is in a student-heavy and growing neighborhood.
Eric Krasle, who stopped in for some barbecue Monday afternoon, said he still holds out hope that the North Oconee riverfront will be developed like San Antonio's, although closing off Hancock Avenue for the Classic Center expansion and the proposed Walmart-anchored development nearby threaten that vision. "If he can survive another year, this area will really come into its own," Krasle said.
UPDATE: I stopped by for lunch with my boy Joe VanHoose a little before noon today, and it was pretty packed out. Looks like Dexter's ploy is working. A TV reporter was there, though I'm not sure from what station. (Updated again: Joe says Channel 11.) Also, one Kelli McCain has set up a Facebook page urging people to eat at Weaver D's on Friday.