Oil spill impacts local restaurants

    Impact from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is reaching the Philadelphia region. Restaurant owners are dealing with increased seafood prices and restricted access to certain menu items.

    by Alyssa Bindman

    Restaurants in the Philadelphia region have seen escalating prices on seafood imports as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Now the demand for shellfish from other regions is driving up prices for seafood from the mid-Atlantic and other areas outside the Gulf.

    Frank Byrne has been the owner of Byrne’s Tavern in Northeast Philadelphia for 32 years. The restaurant is known for blue crabs, which Byrne supplies from Louisiana in the summer. This year, it’s not an option.

    Byrne: So we’ve been kinda staying with Mexico and Florida. And eventually we would be coming out of Louisiana, but that’s not going to happen. And that’s a sad thing.

    Byrne plans to get crabs from Maryland later this summer. Since the oil spill, he has seen the price of crabs jump about 15 percent. He hasn’t raised the price on his menu yet, but may if prices continue to rise. Byrne is pushing chicken wings instead.

    Rich Sitz’s restaurant, Bonk’s Bar and Grille in Northeast Philadelphia, has served crabs for 50 years. Sitz says this year, he might not be able to serve up Louisiana crabs, as he usually does in the summer.

    Sitz: Right now because we’re getting our crabs from Florida and Mexico, we’re not really seeing a significant hit. But later on in the year when the Florida crabs and the Mexicans are not as abundant, that’s typically when we kick in with the Louisiana crabs and that’s when we expect to see a hit in the market.

    Sitz predicts that prices will increase later in the summer, a time when they typically go down.

    To keep crabs on the menu, Sitz may purchase them from Maryland or New Jersey, though he says Southern crabs are bigger and meatier. He is concerned about purchasing crabs from Texas, where the effects from the spill are unknown.

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