August 10, 2012

Lobster prices hit record lows, but restaurants still charge top dollar

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Lobster prices

Do you sympathize with lobstermen over the low prices they’re seeing?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

Nikki Salvia orders a crab roll Thursday at Day’s Take Out on Route 1 in Yarmouth, where the market price for a lobster roll was $12.95. Salvia is visiting Maine from New York.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A sign on Commercial Street in Portland advertises the price per pound for lobster Thursday at Benny’s Lobster.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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Porch said she cut the price for the lobster meal from about $25 a month ago, when she could no longer get more expensive hard-shell lobsters.

Steve DiMillo, owner of DiMillo's Floating Restaurant on the Portland waterfront, echoed Porch's comments.

His restaurant serves hard-shells only for its in-the-shell lobster meals, he said, and they generally run $5 a pound and up at lobster dealers. He said he also makes his lobster rolls from meat that he buys from dealers. Even though most of that meat comes from soft-shell lobsters and should be getting less expensive, it's been stuck at about $24 a pound for months.

"The dealer's making a really good markup," DiMillo said. When asked about it, dealers "come up with explanations that really don't make any sense."

At the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, they even out price gyrations by dealing directly with lobsterman Jim Merryman, said Glen Sanokklis, resident manager of the inn.

The inn pays Merryman more than the market rate -- $3.50 to $4 a pound now -- at times when lobster is plentiful, but he also makes sure they have lobster at a discount in the winter, when the supply typically tightens and prices rise.

That allows the inn to set out trays of lobsters, along with other offerings, at the Sunday brunch, which costs $24.95, Sanokklis said. The lobsters are available at brunch pretty much all year, he said, and the meal usually sells out.

Out at the Lobster Shack, there was a clear difference between locals, who seemed put off by the price of lobster dishes, and the folks from away, who weren't at all fazed.

Ruth Ann Vandepitte of South Portland has been treating her niece and nephew to lobster every day of their visit here from Allen, Texas. But she clearly favored the dishes she was making at home, noting that she could make lobster rolls for all three of them, with some left over, from a pound of lobster meat that she bought this week for $25. This weekend she plans to cook up a bunch of soft-shells before Rusty and Sharon Slicker head back home.

"We'll just get a mess of lobster, and we'll pay a lot less," she said. Vandepitte plans to take advantage of the low prices while she can, noting "you can't expect to be paying $3.50 forever."

Randy Slicker said $14.99 for a lobster roll was way less than he would pay in Texas, if he could even find one.

Nearby, Philip Howell of Como, N.C., was about to dig into a lobster meal with his wife, Belinda. He seemed more concerned about how to crack the shell and get to the meat -- it was his first whole lobster -- than he was with the cost.

"It's a treat for us," he said. "This is the first time we've ever been to Maine, and everyone says you've got to eat lobster."

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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Today's poll: Lobster prices

Do you sympathize with lobstermen over the low prices they’re seeing?

Yes

No

View Results

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