Dependency's Consequences

By Reiland, Ralph R. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 28, 2006 | Go to article overview

Dependency's Consequences


Reiland, Ralph R., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The Lobster House, started in 1936 in Cape May, is the largest independent (nonchain) restaurant in New Jersey, the 18th largest independent in the United States. With its own fleet of boats, the restaurant ships millions of pounds a year of fresh seafood, including tuna, shark and oysters, throughout the United States.

The Cape May harbor is home to an annual shark-fishing contest, pulling fishermen from around the world to compete for a $228,000 purse for the biggest makos and threshers, plus a $50,000 Monster Prize for the overall heaviest shark.

As a sign of the times, Mexican immigrants seemed to be the majority labor force on the Lobster House fishing boats this year, just as they're becoming a major factor in South Jersey agriculture, landscaping and construction. Our waitress explained that though they're hurting summer jobs for Cape May's kids, the Mexicans are more reliable than the town's own high school and college summer work force.

As another sign of the times, the waitress said she averaged $200 in tips for her three-hour lunch shift last year, but that this year it was down to $100. In Sea Isle, the largest Realtor said this year's rentals weren't keeping up with the growing supply of houses.

At Trump's Marina in Atlantic City, there's seating for probably 200 at the outside bar and dock, but at 1 p.m. during peak season on a sunny Friday, our table of five was the only occupied table or bar stool in the place. Our waitress said she averaged $200 at lunch last year, but that her tips this year had dropped to $40.

The bartender for what should have been a lunch rush explained that he's worked at Trump's for 11 years and this was the worst. "We've never seen it like this. Inside too, at night in the restaurants, there's nothing." Yachts and small boats were sitting silent in the harbor, whereas last year the story was a mega-yacht that got a fill-up for $54,000.

Most attribute the lackluster summer season to the price of gas. "Workers are feeling the gasoline pinch and are adjusting their leisure activities to compensate," writes J.W. Elphinstone of The Associated Press, referring to a recent consumer survey.

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