Gulf Coast restaurants, processor sue BP

More than a dozen Gulf Coast restaurants, a foodservice distributor and a seafood processor on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans seeking compensation from BP as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak.

The plaintiffs claim that they are losing business because fishing closures in the Gulf of Mexico are inhibiting their ability to source fresh, local seafood and, as a result, limiting supplies and driving up prices. They also claim that misinformation about oil-tainted fish are scaring away their customers.

The companies seek damages under the U.S. Oil Pollution Act, which was established after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in the Gulf of Alaska to provide compensation for economic losses associated with an oil spill.

The restaurants include the Crazy Lobster Bar & Grill in New Orleans and Destin, Fla.; Poppy’s Seafood Factory in Destin, Fla.; Tello’s Bistro and Zeke’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar, both in Metairie, La.; and Eleven 79 and Franky and Johnny’s Restaurant, in New Orleans. The foodservice distributor is P.A. Menard in New Orleans and the processor is New Orleans Fish House.

“We wanted to get in front of a court as soon as possible and get a clear determination that these types of businesses…will be covered under the act,” attorney Steve Herman, who filed the suit, told WWL-TV in New Orleans.

Numerous fishermen and seafood suppliers — including Gastian’s Pier and Hillman Shrimp and Oyster Corp., both of Dickinson, Texas — have sued BP.

On Tuesday, the size of the area in the Gulf closed to commercial fishing nearly tripled, to almost 46,000 square miles, or 19 percent of federal Gulf waters. The closure remained in effect on Wednesday. Parts of southeastern Louisiana waters are also off-limits to commercial fishing.

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