by Caleb Pershan
Ending a fight of seven years and countless innings, Drakes Bay Oyster Company has admitted defeat, settling its recent lawsuit with the federal government to return its land to protected federal wilderness.
Today, the company signed an agreement with the National Parks Service to continue harvesting from its beds through the end of the year. Then, after many reprieves and stays, they’ll close.
But this won’t be the end for Drake’s: The company plans to open a restaurant and oyster distribution company at the Tomales Bay Resort in Inverness to be called Drakes Oyster House.
To recap: The Drakes Bay farm, in existence since 1965 under various names, was granted a 40-year lease in 1972. Then, in 1976, a congressional wilderness designation made the lease un-renewable as the area, Drakes Estero, became part of the protected national seashore.
But Drakes co-owners Joe, Kevin and Bob Lunny, who took over the lease in 2004, have been shucking and jiving till the end. The real life Walruses and Carpenters hoped to keep Drakes alive with support from politicians like Dianne Feinstein to potentates such as Alice Waters.
But things weren’t looking good: Last year the 9th Circuit ruled to deny the company’s petition for a preliminary injunction against the federal government, and SCOTUS denied cert this June. May saw the company fall short of a $25,000 fundraising goal on IndieGogo.
And then, in late July, with just over a week before one in a series of deadlines for Drakes, several local restaurants and an oyster distributor filed the now-settled last-minute lawsuit to stop the eviction.
"We fought long and hard all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court," the Lunnys said in a statement. “This new venture will allow us to continue to provide jobs for many of our oyster workers while supporting other small family farms and fishermen in west Marin County."