According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the closing of the century-old Drakes Bay Oyster Company, once called Johnson’s Oyster Farm, prompted quite an emotional reaction from its fans, with hundreds of them mourning its demise Thursday afternoon. The plaintive melody of “Auld Lang Syne” wafted from a bagpiper’s pipes as fans brought coolers, lemons, hot sauce, and cold beer to join the wake.
Drakes Bay’s lease expired Thursday after the National Park Service previously decided it would transform the area into a marine sanctuary. The wholesale operation will stay in business through August, but the retail shop is permanently closed. The outbuildings will soon be destroyed and the roughly one million oysters trashed. In addition, 30 employees will no longer work at the company because their homes are on the property.
According to the SF Chronicle, a whopping 80% of the Bay Area’s oysters come from Drakes Bay; 35% of the state’s oysters are provided by the company. The company estimated that on a busy day, they were capable of selling 100,000 oysters. The owner, Kevin Lunny, who bought the company in 2005, was sick at heart, saying, “This is not environmentalists versus ranchers. This is 90 percent of the Bay Area versus a few extreme hands-off preservationists who found an agency willing to listen to them.”
The owner of Santa Cruz radio station KSCO, Michael Zwerling, attested to the Chronicle that the closing of Drakes Bay was “the most important local issue of the last couple years,” adding that it had been a complicated matter, with aspects to be considered including property rights, the rights of agriculture, and environmental laws.
He asserted, “I don’t even like oysters, and I came for this. It’s tragic what’s happened. People are being deprived of their livelihoods, their homes. And many people are being deprived of oysters, if they like oysters.”