In an effort to limit the continuing spread of COVID in the community, Key West Mayor Teri Johnston enacted, and police enforced, a 10 p.m. curfew for the three nights of the New Year weekend — Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and Jan. 2.
Police officers on horses, motorcycles, and mobile command vehicles announced the curfew and began clearing Duval Street between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
Officers faced profanity and belligerence from drunk — and mostly unmasked — protesters who lined the intersection of Greene and Duval streets, camera phones in hand, recording all police actions.
Officers did not deploy rubber bullets or other crowd control devices, Police Chief Sean Brandenburg told the Keys Weekly on Sunday, Jan. 3. He added that there were 16 total curfew-related arrests over the three nights.
“I’m extremely proud of the hard work and professionalism our department showed during the weekend,” he said. “We’ve faced a lot of interesting challenges in this pandemic and I’m very proud of each of our officers.”
Mayor Teri Johnston also commended the officers and the guests who complied with the city’s regulations.
“Duval was efficiently cleared of congregating crowds on all three nights,” Johnston told Keys Weekly. “Our guests stayed safe and enjoyed a great weekend in Key West. Unfortunately, law enforcement did have to arrest a few people who had received repeated warnings from our police, code and fire officers.”
One of the arrestees on New Year’s Eve was Key West restaurant owner Joe Walsh, who allegedly violated the curfew by not closing Fogarty’s bar & restaurant at 10 p.m. Walsh has been a vocal opponent of the city’s mask mandate. His businesses have received multiple code compliance citations for mask violations and he has questioned the mayor’s authority to enact and enforce the mask rules and the curfew.
Online jail records show that several people, many of them couples and relatives from New Jersey, were arrested in the early-morning hours of Jan. 1 at 430 Duval St., which is the intersection of Duval and Fleming streets, near La Concha Hotel.
Multiple curfew arrests, according to jail records, also occurred at 200 Duval St., the intersection of Duval and Greene streets, near Sloppy Joe’s and Rick’s / Durty Harry’s entertainment complex.
The curfew violations are recorded in online arrest records as second-degree misdemeanors for violation of a disaster preparedness/ emergency management order.
(Photos by LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly)