Representatives of Florida Free Beaches want a clothing optional beach in Key West. Their goal is to section off a portion of Smather’s Beach with appropriate signage and fencing, and they want City Commissioners to vote on the issue. Not have the “recreation” decided in referendum this upcoming election.

As The Key West Weekly reports, the arguments for a nude beach haven’t changed, and we have the naked truth sounded in Old City Hall.

“I am asked every night where the nude beach is,” Melinda Asbel says with a shaky voice.

She stands at the podium with a plea, “Please give us a chance. Just allow us to open up a clothing optional beach. It will not do the city of Key West harm. I know too many people who will come visit us.”

Asbel is perhaps more akin to nudity than the average Key Wester, or, global traveler for that matter. Asbel is a topless bartender at the clothing optional bar the Garden of Eden.

“I don’t like clothes,” the Land O’Lakes native remarks with simplicity.

The hospitality industry employee is part of
1.) the crowd that doesn’t care for clothes
2.) the crowd desperate for tourism to light up a flailing island economy

Number two now encompasses 90% of the Key West Business Guild, and 79% of the Key West Innkeepers Association.

President Ian Whitney describing the harsh reality, “I had three friends lose jobs directly related to tourism. This is an issue the City Commissioners should decide.”

Commissioners Barry Gibson, Joe Pais, and Bill Verge and Mayor Morgan McPherson saying absolutely not. The beaches belong to the community.

“I walk and jog there everyday,” Commissioner Pais paints a colorful picture. “I would be there now if I wasn’t at this meeting. I’m amazed people believe we can cut up that beach into slices.”

Commissioner Pais pointing out the entire wedding industry depends on the beach being available.

“Sometimes there are four weddings going on, and the kiteboarders, I see them on weekends and weekdays,” Pais noted for his colleagues.

More travelers would descend onto the site says Alan Leigh, Director of Florida Keys Free Beaches.

“We’re talking about bringing a minimum of 75,000 to 80,000 people to Key West every year. We’re already taking calls from tourist agencies all over the country with people asking, ‘When can I begin booking trips there?’”

Mayoral candidate Sloan Bashinsky urged the commissioners to vote on the clothing optional beach, not place it on referendum.

“Did we do a referendum to create Fantasy Fest? To adopt the creed of One Human Family? No. The City Commission did that, Sloan referring to proceeding situations.

“If you resort to a popular vote every time something comes up instead of the commission biting the bullet, you are not doing what you were elected to do.”

“My district is in New Town,” offered Commissioner Barry Gibson. “There are long time families, Conch families, and they are really not interested. Districts are very important, and I can’t say from an economical standpoint this is going to raise property value and create jobs. I’m not going to buy that and nine out of ten people I’ve talked to during various front porch meetings and visits to coffee shops, say ‘no.’”

An ally for the nude beach is found with Commissioner Terri Johnston.

“I truly believe putting this issue on referendum we are being inconsistent on how we treat issues.

“I would like to see us give it a try, we have nothing to lose. I am going to ask for one year approval at Smathers.”

“At least give us a chance, okay?” Melinda pleads with the commissioners. “The beach isn’t going to hurt us.”

From here, the ordinance will move to a second reading and will need to be passed before being placed as an agenda item to be voted on.

If this process moves forward in the same manner, it appears the decision will be left to popular vote, as a referendum item, on the ballot this October 6.

Being an “off” election year, 2009 is shaping up to be a sensational one. Key West City Commissioners this week also passed a second reading to extend the mayoral term from 2 to 4 years.

We’ve only hit mid-July and already are faced with a nude beach proposal, a race-off for Mayor, as well the commission seats for Districts I, III, and VI. October will be exciting indeed.

Empty Beach
“You’re losing money because there are no people at Smathers Beach,” Alan Leigh Director of Florida Keys Free Beaches tells commissioners. Empty Beach

Melinda Asbel is a topless bartender at the Garden of Eden, Key West’s clothing optional bar. She pled her case to commissioners and asked them to just give gals like her around the globe a chance to bare it all. Melinda



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