On Mr. Obama’s June trip, he bought lemon-lime ices with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour at Cyndi’s Sno De-Lites on the beach in Gulfport. Business at the beach-front kiosk boomed that day, according to local press reports.
But the effect was apparently short-lived. On Monday and Tuesday this week, the white shutters at Cyndi’s were shut, the parking lot at Combs Pier, where Mr. Obama ate lunch that day, was all but empty, and a row of lonely personal watercraft bobbed 50 yards off shore.
One local said Cyndi’s is still open on weekends, but with the number of beachgoers down by half there probably wasn’t enough traffic to keep it open the rest of the time.
Still, the suffering is not shared by all, and one place that’s weathering better than most is Tacky Jacks tavern in Orange Beach, Ala., where the president ate dinner in June, sharing crawfish tails, a gigantic plateful of loaded nachos that the restaurant calls “Mexican Garbage,” and sweet royal red shrimp, pulled from 4,000 feet deep in the Gulf.
David Evans, vice president of operations and development for Tacky Jacks, said the restaurant did see a price spike in their seafood supply in July but has managed just fine - possibly because it’s a bigger operation with higher purchasing power and a steady customer base.
“We have been able to maintain our traditional menu of seafood. We have had very little to no difficulties truly with any seafood products,” Mr. Evans said. “Oysters have been a bit touch-and-go for just a short period of time, but really we’ve just not had much of a problem.”
Shucking paradise lost
For Paul Johnson, a sixth-generation fisherman who works the Gulf and runs an oyster-shucking business along with his father and brother, the spill has been a personal disaster. They’ve collected checks from BP PLC and have spent some time working on the BP cleanup crews out in the Gulf, but they haven’t shucked an oyster since June 1.
“I’m a little scared to get back into it too quick. I don’t want somebody coming back and saying I found a little oil in this,” said Jeff Johnson, the father.
Both men said they’d like to go back to work on the BP cleaning crews, where there’s good money to be made. But some seafood distributors here worry that the money is too good.
Richard Gollott, who runs a seafood-processing plant and is on the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources, said he was shocked earlier this week when he was watching a national news broadcast where scientists declared the seafood safe, then a few minutes later a local fisherman argued that the situation was still bad and the things he was pulling up were oil-infested.
Mr. Gollott said the prospect of a guaranteed, good check from BP is so attractive that some fishermen are bad-mouthing local seafood in order to keep BP on the line longer.
“To people down here it’s clear what’s going on,” Mr. Gollott said. He said he doesn’t blame the fishermen, just the economics that are so skewed that it makes more sense to take the guaranteed check over running the risk of fishing all day with the possibility of coming up empty.
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