Lobster prices boiling over, but Seacoast sellers keep customers in mind

Union Leader Correspondent
April 24. 2018 10:52PM
Cold weather and international demand caused lobster prices to skyrocket this year, but local restaurants didn't pass along the costs like they did in Boston. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

SEABROOK — Restaurant owners on the Seacoast say with the recent spike in lobster prices they are keeping lobster roll prices the same — or even taking the sandwich off the menu.

Brown’s Lobster Pound owner Bruce Brown said the cold weather and demand for lobsters from China and Japan drove prices this spring to their highest level in 10 years. Still, he doesn’t want to charge too much for lobsters.

“We make a couple of dollars a pound,” Brown said. “I don’t like to go too high.”

The situation is the same across the street at Markey’s Lobster Pool.

“We try to be fair to the customers,” said Joyce Markey, who owns the restaurant with Tom Markey.

The Markeys are selling lobsters for between $12.99 and $18.99 a pound. A lobster roll costs $16.95.

At Brown’s Lobster Pound, a lobster roll is also $16.95. Lobsters cost between $12.95 and $17.50 a pound.

Brown said that certain items are slightly more profitable. For example, picked lobster meat sells for $80 a pound.

Prices have stabilized. Tom Markey said he was paying $11 a pound for lobsters three weeks ago. Now, the price is at $7 a pound.

In Portsmouth, a lobster roll with three ounces of meat goes for $13.95 at Old Ferry Landing.

Owner Jack Blalock, who is also the mayor of Portsmouth, said lobster prices are traditionally high in the spring. When his restaurant opened for the season a week ago, they were paying 20 percent more than average for lobster meat, or about $40 per pound for pre-shucked products.

“We just absorb that cost rather than having a market price,” Blalock explained.

Blalock said the restaurant also saw a price increase in clams this spring.

Chef Matt Louis, who owns The Franklin, said the restaurant on Fleet Street in Portsmouth took lobster rolls off the menu because they were just too expensive.

“It was a really big decision, but we had to ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing?’” Louis said. “It’s actually a great opportunity to focus on under-utilized local fish like mackerel, hake, dogfish, whiting. Fortunately, a number of lobstermen also catch these fish, so we do our best to support them and at the same time put some really great seafood on the menu.”

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that $15-per-pound lobster prices were driving up the costs for consumers at Boston-area restaurants and some owners were pulling lobster off their menus until the market stabilized.

The newspaper said that at the French restaurant Deuxave, lobster rolls with 8 ounces of meat were $49 on Marathon Monday. Normally, they are $22.
At Yankee Fishermen's Co-op in Seabrook, fresh picked lobster meat was selling for $55.99 a pound Tuesday. Lobsters ranged in price from $11.25 to $13.49 a pound. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

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