The giant red shoe with the drag queen inside will still drop on New Year’s Eve in Key West. But it won’t happen on Duval Street, which typically attracts tens of thousands of people for holiday festivities.
Key West leaders canceled all special events — including several popular “drops” on New Year’s Eve — on city property this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The city will also have a 10 p.m. nightly curfew from Dec. 31 until 6 a.m. Jan. 3, according to an order issued by the mayor on Friday afternoon. People must be off the streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. during the weekend unless they are involved in essential work or are first responders.
“I can’t describe it any other way than a major super-spreader event,” Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said Thursday at a city commission meeting where leaders had an extensive discussion but no decisions were made. “We know we can’t cancel New Year’s Eve.”
Johnston on Friday ordered all non-essential businesses to close at 10 p.m. Dec. 31 and that people must be home or in their vacation rentals no later than 10:30 p.m.
“During the period of such curfew, no person shall make use of any street or sidewalk for any purpose except police, fire rescue, first responder, medical, health care, media and utility repair service personnel,” the directive reads.
The curfew won’t apply to people returning directly to their homes from work at essential businesses or those going directly to work at essential establishments from their homes.
People may also make deliveries from essential businesses, travel to and from religious services and walk their dogs within 250 feet of their homes.
Key West has to do something, the mayor said Thursday night.
“We’re talking about inviting 50,000 people into town during a global pandemic,” Johnston said. “Even if they have to go to their hotel at 10 o’clock we’re going to make some money. What we have to do is keep them alive and healthy”
“We’re chasing the goose at this point,” said Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who added that vacation rentals and hotels are already booked.
A 1 a.m. curfew was also floated. Some business owners said a 10 p.m. curfew would hurt workers.
“Closing a restaurant at 10 p.m. will be devastating for the business community,” said Suzanne Moore, the incoming president of the Greater Key West Chamber of Commerce.
“We hope for the 1 a.m.,” said Lynne Hernandez, the South Florida regional director of Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Right now, Key West would be the only city that is considering moving your curfew down to 10 p.m. for New Year’s Eve”
Police said 1 a.m. wouldn’t work for them.
“Trying to push everybody off Duval Street at midnight,” Police Chief Sean Brandenburg said. “I don’t think we can do that. Not on New Year’s Eve.”
New Year’s drops, like a conch shell at Sloppy Joe’s bar and a “pirate wench” at Schooner Wharf, are canceled, city staff said.
“For the first time in 28 years, Sloppy Joe’s will not drop the conch shell to ring in the new year,” the bar posted on its website.
In case you missed all the fun we had in #KeyWest on New Year's Eve, you can watch it here:
Gary “Sushi” Marion, though, will be in that same red shoe when it drops. But this year it will happen in the back of the Bourbon Street Pub, which has hosted the famous shoe drop televised on CNN for 23 years, said bar owner Joe Schroeder..
The back of Bourbon is an outdoor space and people can buy tickets and sit at tables for the shoe drop, Schroeder said.
“It’s just moved into a more controlled environment,” Schroeder said Friday. “We’ll make sure they’re seated at tables and watching it more like a show instead of standing in the street.”
And what about a curfew before midnight?
“We’ll just do it earlier,” Schroeder said. “There’s New Year’s Eve somewhere in the world at 9 p.m.”