This lobster had been in a seafood restaurant for longer than its most recent owner. In fact, the newest proprietor had come to see him as a friend rather than as food. And then, one day, he made up his mind: he knew exactly what to do with the crustacean.
It sounds like a Disney movie: a lobster stuck in a tank longing to see the world outside the glass. For one crustacean captive, though, it was real life, and it was a story that had begun decades ago. But for better or worse, all of that was about to change.
The shellfish in question is called Louie, and by all accounts, he is one long-lived lobster. Although it’s hard to be exact given his incredible lifespan, Louie is roughly 132 years old. And that makes him one of New York’s oldest incarcerated lobsters.
You’d think that Louie must have seen a lot of things in his life, but his view has, in fact, been rather limited. You see, for 20 years he’s been confined to a glass fish tank in a seafood restaurant. Recently, however, the wily old lobster lived out his very own clawshank redemption.
Louie lived in an eatery called Peter’s Clam Bar, located in Hempstead, New York. In recent years, the restaurant has changed hands and now has a new proprietor – a man called Butch Yamali.
And since Yamali bought Peter’s Clam Bar four years ago, he has become rather fond of Louie the Lobster. Furthermore, given that Louie lived at the bar for 20 years, it’s safe to assume that the previous owner felt the same way. What made the crustacean even more remarkable, though, was his sheer size.
Indeed, Louie had grown into a 22-pound giant, and he wouldn’t easily fit into most cooking pots. There was, however, always someone who was willing to try. Yamali met one such customer in June 2017 when he was approached by a man who was hungry for the behemoth.
“He was trying to negotiate with me,” Yamali told the New York Post on June 16, 2017. Apparently the man offered to buy Louie for $1,000. “He said, ‘I want to bring [Louie] home for a Father’s Day feast.’ I mean, that would’ve been some impressive feast.”
Despite the offer, though, Yamali couldn’t bring himself to part with Louie. “I didn’t want to sell it,” he said. “It’s like a pet now, I couldn’t sell it.” So lucky Louie avoided the pot and was instead given something that was long overdue.
You see, on June 16, 2017, Yamali spread some happy news on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “We’re pardoning Louie the Lobster today,” he wrote. “Join us at Peter’s and watch Louie be set free!” Yes, after two decades behind glass, the large lobster was finally going to be released.
What’s more, the release was scheduled for National Lobster Month. The celebration takes place in June, with June 15 specifically being National Lobster Day. Usually, it’s a time to celebrate the taste of lobster, but for Louie it was a festival of freedom.
The subsequent celebratory occasion was overseen by Anthony Santino, the Hempstead Town Supervisor. Santino made the ceremony official and even had a speech prepared to see Louie off in style. “Today I’m announcing an official pardon for Louie the Lobster,” he said, according to the New York Post.
“Louie may have faced a buttery fate on a seafood lover’s plate, but today we are here to return Louie to a life that is better down where it’s wetter,” he said. And without further ado, Louie was released back into the sea where he belongs.
Since Yamali had made a connection with Louie, though, it was a bittersweet occasion for the restaurant owner. “Louie has been here about 20 years,” he told the New York Post. “He’s the largest and oldest of all my lobsters. It’s happy and sad.”
Releasing large lobsters for the National Lobster Month festivities is becoming a tradition for Peter’s Clam Bar. One of Louie’s fellow inmates – a 130-year-old lobster called Larry – was released last year. And Santino was one of the officials presiding over Larry’s release, too.
Larry lived at the restaurant for even longer than Louie – a whopping 30 years, in fact. So what’s the thinking behind the release of these ancient crustacean captives? According to Santino, it’s a gesture of respect for Hempstead’s history.
“Our township’s seafaring nautical heritage has inspired me to spare the life of Larry the Lobster and return him to the beautiful, peaceful waters from which he came,” said Santino on Larry’s release.
Santino continued, “As most of the nation celebrates the culinary delights of lobster dishes, Hempstead Town decided to hold a more dignified and deserving tribute by preserving the life of our good friend Larry who might have otherwise become a prominent ingredient in a chef’s favorite recipe.”
Despite the amount of money that the huge lobsters are worth, Yamali said that he enjoys seeing them being freed. “I am proud to own restaurants that celebrate our nautical heritage and serve the finest seafood, but today I am happy to join Supervisor Santino as he pardons Larry the Lobster,” he said.
And assuming that the lobsters don’t get caught again, they stand to live a long life. “There aren’t many predators who want to eat a big old lobster like that,” the executive director of Maine’s Lobster Institute, Bob Bayer, said. “Hopefully, he finds a mate – and lives happily ever after.”