Seafood prices continue to climb
HOUSTON Restaurant owners are feeling the impact, prices are up and supplies are down and things could get worse. Seafood restaurants in the greater Houston area are still open for business, but business is tough right now. "There is just a general concern over the oil in the water," said Michael Massa, owner of Massa's Seafood Grill. "Some people have concerns about seafood as it drifts, if it is drifting toward Galveston; that's not a good thing either, not good for us at all." While there is still plenty of good food at Massa's Seafood Grill, Gulf Coast shrimp, crab and oysters are hard to find or are seeing price hikes. So far, Massa says he has not passed the climbing costs along to customers. "Right now we are absorbing it as much as we can, but it is something that we will look at," Massa said. "It is something that you always have to look at." Seafood distributors say oysters are becoming increasingly scarce because Louisiana oyster beds are still shut down due to the Gulf oil spill. "There is just not a lot available to be fished," said Louisiana Foods President Jim Gossen. "Basically, all the oyster we're getting is from Galveston Bay; we're not getting any from Louisiana right now." Gossen says only about 25 percent of the typical supply is available right now; he adds the cost of Gulf shrimp is up and so are the imports being brought in to cover demand. "I think what we are going to look at is just the long-term price being more, maybe two or three dollars more per pound at least for another year," Gossen said. Gossen also owns Magnolia Seafood Grill. After more than two decades in business, the restaurant is now closed. Increasing health care costs, hikes in the city's water rate, and the oil spill are all factors in the decision to shut down. Eyewitness News talked to grocery stores too and right now they say they are still selling Gulf shrimp that was stockpiled before the spill. As for oysters, don't expect to find them on some store shelves. Restaurant owners we spoke with say the spill is hurting business, but the bigger concern is that drilling moratorium. They say companies are cutting back staff and those employees that would be coming to the restaurants are no longer working and that's hurting business.