Restaurateur - Chef Mike Lata: “Beyond the fisherman and the dock, there are a lot of people relying on fresh local seafood to prosper.”

A transcript of Mike Lata’s testimony before the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in Charleston, SC on September 19, 2013.

My name is Mike Lata. I own a couple restaurants here in town and I was hoping to share a few thoughts with you. Thank you for hearing my opinion. We opened a restaurant called “Fig” about ten years ago and have been selling lots of seafood over those ten years. It has been obvious to me that the people that come to Charleston want to taste and eat the local seafood.

In those ten years we developed many relationships with some great people here in the low country to the point where ten years later -- a few national awards. And with all eyes on the Charleston food scene, we were inspired to open a restaurant called “The Ordinary”, which was a salute to our local fishermen and oystermen and crabbers, et cetera.

I am kind of new to this; politics, if you will. But what has become apparent to me is that the regulations and the decisions that go into changing the regulations affects more than just the fishermen. Now that we have this national reputation as a food town and I have this seafood restaurant called “The Ordinary”, people are traveling from all over the country, as near as these drive-in communities of Charlotte and Atlanta, but as far as everyone on the west coast to have the food in Charleston and taste what we do. 

At certain times of the year, like March and April, these people who have made their one planned trek to the city to taste what we do, well, there really isn’t a whole lot to show off. Aside from that, the economic impact that I think these regulations – they affect more than just the fishermen, like I said earlier. My perspective is if there is a decision to be made about how to enforce or what regulations to enforce, that there is a whole company of people, of 100 people that are selling local seafood, talking about local seafood.

We have a relationship with the Marhefkas who are – Kerry is in the room right now – where we think we do a lot of good. We are pro-management, 100 percent, but I think not to speak out of turn, but I think when there is a chance to consider how the rest of the community is affected by these regulations, I would like to throw my hat in the ring saying there are a lot of us that are affected by it. Whatever we can do to soften, change, lessen the blow so the fishermen can still stay in business, it is our identity as a community and certainly the reception of The Ordinary.

Being named one of the top 10 restaurants by several magazines, a new restaurant Southern Living just named us the top new restaurant in the south. I think a lot of people are benefitting from the recognition that our restaurant is getting. Not that I’m bragging; I’m trying to illustrate a point that beyond the fisherman and the dock, there are a lot of people relying on fresh local seafood to prosper; and the decisions on which fish to shut down and when greatly affects all of us.

Thank you.


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