Oil Spill update for St. Augustine

By Kelly Gibbs | kgibbs@flagler.edu

Kirk Tobuck hates to admit it, but his business has been doing better since the recent Gulf oil spill. Many seafood eateries in St. Augustine have similar news.

Tobuck, co-owner of Panama Hatties’, described how, after the spill, there was an initial scramble to figure out what was going to happen, followed by an unexpectedly successful summer full of tourists.

“All the restaurants here in St. Augustine Beach benefited from that happening, which is horrible, but I think it was our busiest summer we’ve ever had,” Tobuck said.

However, he admits the menu had to be changed after the spill, largely due to public misconception that all seafood was tainted.

“We don’t even have oysters on our menu at all, they almost doubled in price and it’s also affected crab too,” Tobuck said. “If you don’t specialize in raw oysters, it’s kind of one of those things where you’re like ‘let’s not do it, let’s stay away from it.'”

Tim Bartlett is the general manager for Caps on the Water. He discussed the current position of his restaurant, which has an extensive seafood menu and an open oyster bar.

“The one good thing was that a lot of people, tourist industry, on that coast [West] ended up coming to the East coast, so we kind of benefited,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett explained that Caps had to search for fresh fish and oysters from areas other than the West coast, which improved its menu for the most part, except for the oysters.

“We’re getting them from Apalachicola again but they are extremely small,” Bartlett said.  But he added that now that the beds are open, the prices have dropped and they can serve them at reasonable prices.

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