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Limes costing more 'green' for restaurants

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El Arroyo is known for their creative marquee that changes every day. Friday the message was "Spring flings start with spring drinks."

That may be so but like other Tex-Mex restaurants, their margaritas and dishes are a little bit tougher to make now thanks to a shortage of limes.

"Our tortilla soup, it's gonna have a lime with it, all of our margaritas are usually garnished with a lime," said manager Cassandra Noonan.

Noonan says the lime prices have been on the rise for the past six months or so but it's starting to really get bad.

"They've been as low as $15 a case and I've heard that it's gotten as high as $129," she said.

Even though the lime prices might be hurting the management at El Arroyo, they're not passing that pain onto the customer. The food prices are the same and the menu is too.

"Our guests aren't gonna pay the price just because the market has gone up," Noonan said.

The Texas Department of Agriculture says the lone star state has very few commercial lime producers.

"About 98 percent of the limes we consume in Texas and the U.S. are imported from Mexico. Unfortunately, Mexico received some heavy rains that destroyed a large amount of the lime crop. So with limited supplies we are seeing lime prices skyrocket," the department said in a statement.

Until the prices come back down, the restaurant staff at El Arroyo is taking some steps to use their limes wisely.

"Typically, a lot of restaurants would do like a big bucket or container of limes in the morning and then before the night shift. So instead of doing that we're just doing really small batches of cut limes throughout the shift so that way we're only really putting out what we know we're going to use," Noonan said.

Josh Blaine is in charge of purchasing produce for the natural grocery store, "Ingredients" in East Austin. They don't have limes right now but when they're in season, they get them from a farm in Texas.

"We source limes from them when they've got them and that's also something that we do that's a little bit different from anybody else in town which is what you find here for the most part is what's being grown and what's available," Blaine said.

Blaine says it's because of problems like crop failures and ecological disasters that they work with small local farms.

"It kind of reminds me and it reminds us of why it is that what we're doing is important," Blaine said.

And Tex-Mex restaurants aren't the only ones feeling the pinch...or the squeeze -- pun intended.

Some airlines, like Alaska Airlines have completely stopped using limes in drinks -- they were going through about 900 limes a day.

United Airlines says it's substituting lemons on some flights.

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