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Seafood restaurants dealing with soaring prices ahead of Lent

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BATON ROUGE - Lent is starting this week and lucky for Louisiana, seafood is a great solution and alternative to abstinence. However, prices have soared since COVID-19 and inflation is making seafood more of a delicacy than a cultural treat.

Louisiana and seafood go together like catfish and etouffee, but with prices on the rise, how much is too expensive for guests? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, seafood has seen its largest price increase since 1997. Prices were up 9% in 2022 compared to 2021 and continue to rise in the new year.

“It’s just now getting out of reason, it’s still affordable but with college, tuition prices and all that, it’s hard to fork over that much money just for a meal,” Maxwell Edwards, a customer, said.

Since the pandemic, seafood prices are up 21% and continue to rise about 7% annually. Some local restaurants say it’s hard to operate with such a tight margin.

“I just don’t understand it because gas prices are leveling out, COVID-19 is kind of leveling out as well, but inflation is still going up. I’m just trying to find the issue and see when it’s going to level out for us,” Phillip Romano, the general manager of Cork's Cajun Fried Fish & Shrimp said.

Seafood is often caught and shipped to restaurants, so refrigeration and transportation are especially expensive to ensure quality. With the stiff prices, some people consider seafood to be a luxury.

“This is one my favorite Baton Rouge local places, so to think at some point I’m going to be worrying about my next paycheck to get some seafood kind of sucks,” Elsie Huffman, a customer, said.

Owners are taking note of the soaring prices and are doing everything that they can to offer fresh and affordable meals. With lent coming up, they are also hoping guests will support their seafood restaurants.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of people noticing their favorite restaurants closing, so if you’re not able to get out and support then all there is left to do is close the doors,” Elvondae Raybon, the owner or Pit-N-Peel said.

Even without COVID-19, seafood prices were on the rise. Prices today are 110% more than they were 20 years ago according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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