Seafood Joints Could Hike Prices

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The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is forcing Columbus area restaurants serving seafood to spend more money to get their supply of fish. This could be just the start of higher prices for customers who like to eat fresh oysters and shrimp.

The deep fryers are still full of shrimp, oyster and crawfish at the Creole Kitchen in Mount Vernon Plaza. The menu prices haven’t changed despite the crisis in the Gulf since the oil spill. Not yet. Owner, Henry Butcher is worried though that his prices will go up this summer since he is now paying sometimes up to double for his fish orders. “We’re trying to maintain and hold with what we’ve got right now. But, if this keeps going on we’re going to have to raise our prices,”Butcher said.

Butcher bought fish from the Gulf twice a week before the spill, but now the supplies are dwindling.

“I haven’t had any red fish in probably about 3 or 4 weeks now. And red fish is a primary fish that is in that Gulf. So it’s definitely hurting us,” added Butcher.

Butcher is calling other local suppliers to buy perch, and tilapia from fish farms in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Elizabeth Treadwell is with the Pitt Seafood Company that supplies fish for the North Market and Tucci’s in Dublin. She says prices are increasing as more companies buy up what’s still available in the Gulf.

“A lot of people are anticipating that the spill is not going to get cleaned up as soon as we had hoped. And so they’re buying a lot more of the product as a precautionary measure just in case they can’t get the product later, which is putting a little bit more of a strain on it,” said Treadwell.

Treadwell says restaurant menus are likely to change if they include Gulf seafood.

“A lot of people are going to have to start re-evaluating their inventories and what they carry. We’re seeing a lot of menus start to shift towards product that’s not coming out of the Gulf simply because it’s possibly not going to be available in the upcoming months,”Treadwell said.

At the Creole Kitchen, Customer Rob Ferguson often buys the perch sandwich or seafood jambalaya.

“Are you concerned at all about prices going up here in regard to the fact that the Gulf is having trouble with fish supplies? Oh yes, I mean I know they get a lot of their supplies from there so of course you can figure it’s going to go up,”Ferguson said.

For now the cooks at Creole Kitchen will keep making gumbo and shrimp etouffe to satisfy customers. Down the road higher prices could alter menus and appetites.