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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to Close July 31, Unless Restaurant Lawsuit Miraculously Saves Farm

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Workers at Drakes Bay Oyster Company, now set to shutter on July 31. - JOSH EDELSON
  • Josh Edelson
  • Workers at Drakes Bay Oyster Company, now set to shutter on July 31.

In a sad though not entirely surprising move, Drakes Bay Oyster Company announced last week that it plans to shut its doors on July 31.

See also: Shuck and Jive: Drakes Bay Oyster Company Forces a Redefinition of Environmentalism

Supreme Court Passes on Drakes Bay Oyster Company Appeal

The Point Reyes oyster company has been involved in a legal battle with the federal government since November 2012, when then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar declared that he would not renew the farm's lease on Drakes Estero, a pristine, 2,500-acre, National Park Service-owned estuary that would become the first marine wilderness in the United States.

The oyster farm's subsequent lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case earlier this month. And that, it seems, is that.

Or is it? A group of local restaurants -- many of the same that signed a "friend of the court" document in support of the oyster farm back in early 2013 -- have filed a lawsuit against the federal government to keep the farm open on the grounds that the farm's closing will result in "a substantial and critical component of their locally harvested oyster supply," reports the Chronicle.

This isn't an exaggeration. Drakes is currently the only oyster cannery still operating in California -- meaning that restaurants like Hayes Street Grill, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, will have to look elsewhere for oysters to fry and put in stew. Drakes is also one of the biggest operating oyster farms in the area, and its closing means that a few weeks a year, during rainy season, when runoff from the dairy farms closes Tomales Bay for oyster production, local restaurants may not be able to get local oysters (though of course it all depends on your definition of "local"; Humboldt Bay has production, and there is always Oregon and Washington).

So, it's a blow, for sure. And if the farm closes, it will likely never re-open -- bottom leases aren't easy to come by, and the farm will have to sacrifice thousands of dollars worth of oyster stock in the water. It's hard to say whether the restaurants' lawsuit will hold any water, so to speak. Meanwhile, Drakes is still operating until the end of the month, so get your road trips up there in while you can.

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About The Author

Anna Roth

Anna Roth

Anna Roth is SF Weekly's former Food & Drink Editor and author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border.


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