SM AIRPORT — The Hump, the high-end sushi restaurant facing federal charges for allegedly selling endangered whale meat, closed its doors Friday and does not plan to reopen, according to a statement on its Web site.
The phone number to the restaurant was no longer active as of Saturday evening and an employee at The Hump’s sister restaurant Typhoon confirmed that Friday was The Hump’s last night in business.
After 12 years of doing business in Santa Monica the owners of The Hump chose to close the doors March 20 as part of a self-imposed punishment and as a way to raise awareness about the "detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species."
"Closing the restaurant is a self-imposed punishment on top of the fine that will be meted out by the court," the statement said. "The owner of The Hump also will be taking additional action to save endangered species.
"One such action will be to make a substantial contribution to one or more responsible organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species.
"The Hump apologizes to our loyal customers, the community of Santa Monica, and the public at large for our illegal actions. While the current difficulties faced by The Hump overshadow the many friendships formed over the years, we want our customers and friends to know how much we thank you for your support."
Federal prosecutors last week charged the owner and chef of the restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport with the illegal sale of whale meat in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $200,000.
While the restaurant immediately took responsibility once it was charged, the charges came only after an undercover sting operation that was orchestrated by animal activists and the associate producer of the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove."
The activists used a tiny video camera to record their payment of $600 for the omakase, or chef’s choice, which included eight pieces of whale. The activists bagged samples of the meat and sent them to the Marine Mammal Institute, where they were determined to be Sei whale, an endangered species.
City Hall is conducting its own investigation into The Hump. As the restaurant’s landlord, the City Council planned to discuss this coming Tuesday whether or not to evict The Hump and its sister restaurant or to impose penalties as part of lease negotiations. The restaurants’ owners were reportedly negotiating a new lease agreement with City Hall when the federal charges were filed.