Lemon Lovers Get Bitter Shock on California Drought

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First it was the surge in beef prices, and then seafood went through the roof. Now you can add lemons to the growing list of ingredients cutting into profit on the menu at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab.

The three Joe’s restaurants, in Washington, Chicago and Las Vegas, use more than 800 lemons a day sliced as garnishes on entrees or juiced for drinks and sauces. A case of 165 lemons costs managing partner Mike Rotolo about $50, up from $30 to $35 in the past year, and many are less juicy than normal.

“This is the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve been at it for at least 25 years,” Rotolo said by telephone from Chicago. “We’re fighting costs on all fronts, with seafood, prime steaks. If we changed our menu every time we had a spike in one of the items we’re buying, it’s just impossible.”

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