By Donald Wittkowski
The big red lobster is in hot water.
The crustacean decoration that has adorned the entrance to the Lobster Loft restaurant in Sea Isle City for years is being evicted and will need a new home.
Lobster Loft is being rebranded as a pub-style restaurant this summer, so owner James Bennett has decided to remove the clawed creature from the outside of the building as part of the bayside eatery’s facelift.
“We’re going to figure out what the heck to do with it,” Bennett said in an interview Friday. “I’m sure someone has an idea.”
Looking to the public for suggestions, Bennett is launching a letter-writing contest to find a new place for the lobster, including the possibility of donating it to charity.
Letters should be addressed in care of “The Big Lobster” at 4000 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, N.J., 08243.
No, we’re not making this stuff up. Bennett is really holding the contest. The mailing address is legitimate. It is the location of another one of Bennett’s businesses, the LaCosta Lounge.
Made of wood, the iconic lobster is about 30 feet long and around 10 to 15 feet wide, Bennett estimated. He believes the supersized crustacean has been part of the restaurant at least since the 1990s. Bennett has been Lobster Loft’s owner since 2006.
The lobster has served as both an advertising gimmick and a landmark to attract customers to the restaurant on 42nd Place, at the base of the John F. Kennedy Boulevard bridge entering Sea Isle. On its Facebook page, the Lobster Loft reminds visitors to “Look for the BIG RED LOBSTER at the foot of the bridge.”
Abby Powell recalled that the lobster was the first thing that she saw when she first visited Sea Isle in 2008. Now, 10 years later, Powell may be seeing a lot more of it.
Powell is the president of the Sea Isle City Historical Museum, which is tucked inside the Cape May County Library branch at 4800 Central Avenue. She is open to the possibility of moving the lobster to the museum as a new attraction.
“I think it would be cool to take care of that lobster that has been so iconic for so many years,” she said of the museum possibly becoming its new home.
Bennett confirmed there have been inquiries from the museum about possibly relocating the lobster there.
Powell said she jokingly suggested to a Lobster Loft employee that the lobster could take the place of the museum’s centerpiece Bridal Exhibit, a display of old wedding gowns worn by Sea Isle residents dating back to 1880.
Considering the lobster’s size, one place to possibly put it is in the museum’s backyard overlooking the bay, Powell said. She noted she would first have to get approval from the Cape May County Library.
What’s clear is that the lobster will have to find a new home relatively soon. Bennett wants to complete the rebranding of the Lobster Loft into a pub-style restaurant by Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the peak summer tourism season at the Jersey Shore. He has not yet announced the new name of the restaurant.
The Lobster Loft overlooks a lagoon in the heart of the Fish Alley neighborhood, an enclave of family-owned restaurants and fishing boats rooted in Sea Isle’s early history as a small commercial seaport. Bennett noted that Lobster Loft’s big, red emblem is symbolic of Fish Alley.
“It really is a location that has been a live, active fishing port for years,” he said.