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Charleston restaurant owner Leva Bonaparte from Southern Charm laughed when asked if her new Bravo show Southern Hospitality was the east coast version of Vanderpump Rules – and that she was the new Lisa Vanderpump.

While she’s being compared to Vanderpump, she thinks the chaos involved in running several restaurants in the hottest location in Charleston mimics more of what Captain Sandy Yawn deals with on Below Deck Mediterranean. “Sometimes I feel like I’m more of like a Sandy from Below Deck than I am a Lisa Vanderpump, honestly,” she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “Because I definitely am not living as fabulous of a life for sure, as Lisa Vanderpump. I have no ponies in my backyard, guys.”

Leva Bonaparte explains why ‘Southern Hospitality’ is like ‘Below Deck’

But she understands how a Bravo series about what happens behind the scenes at a sexy, hot restaurant could be compared to Vanderpump Rules.

Leva Bonaparte talks to Maddi Reese, Joe Bradley on 'Southern Hospitality'
Leva Bonaparte, Maddi Reese, Joe Bradley |Jeff Gentner/Bravo

“Obviously, we’re both in the restaurant business,” she said about Vanderpump. “But our business is just so much more chaotic. That’s why sometimes I like to compare it to Below Deck. Because it’s just like when it’s game time, it’s game time. And it’s liability and it’s people and it’s hundreds of them and they’re out the door and there’s big feelings and there’s drinking.”

‘Southern Hospitality’ producers had to be prepared for chaos

SURvers at Vanderpump’s restaurant SUR are known to sneak a cocktail (or two or three) on the clock. But the environment at Republic is more of a nightclub, so Bonaparte applies the same rules about alcohol as a superyacht captain would on Below Deck.

“I don’t let my staff drink. They can’t drink at work,” Bonaparte said. “I’m not saying they won’t sneak things at times and get in trouble. But it’s because I need them to be about their wits, right? So, yeah, it’s kind of tricky.”

Bonaparte recalled having to prepare Southern Hospitality producers for the madness before they started filming. “When producers got here, I was like, ‘So before we do all this, you need to come in here on a Friday and Saturday and just sit in here and see what I’m talking about.’ Because it’s madness. It’s like an animal house, you know?”

Leva explains the VIP experience at Republic

Also like Yawn from Below Deck Med, Bonaparte, who owns four properties in Charleston, expects a certain level of VIP service for clients. Republic has VIP spaces within the club, which means those clients received pumped-up service.

“You guys will predominantly see us in Republic, which is more of a club,” Bonaparte said. “I always like to say Republic in itself is like four spaces of its own. Because we have a full menu. We have a huge patio that we call the Garden with live music and happy hour, just like sort of any stop-in type spot. But then come 10:00, there’s a lineup around the door and then comes in VIP.”

“So at that point, you have VIP hosts that are at the front door,” she shared. “They manage people who booked tables, who basically booked the VIP experience, like their sort of own real estate inside the club that’s been pre-booked based on how many people are joining us that evening and what they want to drink or what they’re celebrating.”

‘Southern Hospitality’ VIP hosts add a theme – like ‘Below Deck’ stews

Like the stews on Below Deck, Republic hosts and concierges often work with a theme and create a mood – for the right price.

“The concierge will sometimes take it a step further,” Bonaparte said about VIP parties. “Like, oh, it’s a bachelorette, what do you need? Let’s bring out a theme, do you need some cake? They want the sparklers. You need to spend this for us to come out.”


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Bonaparte’s staff will often dress for the theme, a lot like the Below Deck yachties. “Sometimes even our kids, they’ll bring out a big bottle of champagne and they’ll be dressed in [costume]. There’s one theme called ‘Go to Space.’ So they’re just dressed in all these sort of crazy outfits, and they come out, bring the bottles, and then they have these big sort of signs where you can have a specific sign to your party. So they make it a little bit more specific,” she said.

Step behind the velvet rope at Republic for the premiere episode of Southern Hospitality on Monday, November 28 at 9 pm ET on Bravo.