What, if anything, should the city do to limit the spread of COVID-19 on New Year’s Eve, when shoulder-to-shoulder crowds congregate throughout downtown Key West?

Do nothing and let personal responsibility dictate behavior? Cancel all outdoor events? Implement a 10 p.m. curfew? Position security monitors in each block to enforce the mask mandate? 

No decisions have been made, but all of the above were mentioned in a recent online survey to get public input about potential protective measures to keep Key West “open and safe”on New Year’s Eve.

Officials will discuss their options when they meet at 5 p.m. this evening. For a complete agenda, visit cityofkeywest-fl.gov. The New Year’s Eve topic is listed as a discussion item, so an official decision may not be made until a subsequent meeting. 

Approximately 1,300 people responded to the survey in three days, with the mixed results mirroring the division in town, often pitting between business owners and working residents against retirees, second homeowners and government employees whose incomes have been less impacted by the pandemic and its associated business closures.

“We had a very good balance between bar/restaurant and general community members [who responded to the survey]. In that sense, the survey represents the community at large very well,” said Elisa Levy, the city’s strategic planning consultant, when reporting the survey results.

“There was an almost even break between the two extremes: ‘Doing nothing’ was 19.88%; while a ‘10 p.m. curfew’ received 21.89%. This is indicative of the community overall right now. We are divided — evenly split between shutting the event down and keeping it wide open with no rules. Most people fell somewhere in between,” Levy reported.

“The four options that got the most support were: Increase monitors and security to enforce mask rules for people walking (42.47%); cancel all outside events (42.19%); close off Duval to move people outdoors (38.43%); encourage outside dining (32.25%).

Outdoor events include Sushi and the pirate wench drops at Bourbon Street Pub and Schooner Wharf Bar, respectively. Sloppy Joe’s already canceled its conch shell drop, Levy reported.

Tonight’s meeting also includes a coronavirus update from the health department at the start of the meeting, and a COVID update from the mayor is the final agenda item for tonight’s meeting.

The commission will also consider a request from Key West businessman Blake Feldman to operate up to 21 “Bar Bikes” on city streets. The solar- and human-powered bikes feature seven or 14 seats with users pedaling on each side and a mobile “bar” down the center. Feldman has requested the required vehicle-for-hire licenses for the venture.

A Key West businessman is seeking city approval to operate up to 21 solar- and human-powered ‘bar bikes’ on Key West’s streets. CONTRIBUTED
Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.