Oh buoy: Rules coming for canvassers at popular Key West photo spot

Tourists take in the purported closest U.S. place to Cuba.
Tourists take in the purported closest U.S. place to Cuba.

Key West these days has no shortage of tourists strolling down Duval Street and the cross streets that lead to places such as the Southernmost Point, a giant fake buoy claiming to be 90 miles from Cuba.

It's actually a few miles farther than that from the corner, but visitors don't seem to mind the discrepancy: Dozens, ranging from an older woman in a wheelchair to college kids and toddlers, lined up the other day to wait for a chance to take a photo with the waterfront buoy.

There's also something else not quite right at the Southernmost Point, city Code Compliance officials learned recently.

Unlike a host of trendy spots in Key West's historic district, it's legal -- for a little while longer -- for businesses to send employees to hand out drink coupons or other promotional leaflets.

Jim Young, the city's Code Compliance director, recently received a complaint about off-premise canvassing -- commercial promotion by employees offering drink coupons or brochures on the street -- at the big buoy from someone who believed it was outlawed.

"When I returned to my office and researched the ordinance, I found it was not a prohibited area," Young said. "I contacted the canvassers and informed them they were not prohibited from canvassing."

The business in question is the local Hard Rock Cafe on Duval, which did nothing wrong.

But on Tuesday, Key West city commissioners will consider making the Southernmost Point area off limits to such business promotions, adding it to the forbidden list along with Duval, Front Street, Clinton Square and the Key West Historic Seaport.

City laws prevent businesses from off-premise canvassing in the historic district, which includes Duval and its cross streets. The law's language says such canvassing in such busy places causes safety hazards and traffic congestion.

Young proposed an amendment to bring Key West's ordinance in line with its anti-panhandling law and street performers regulations.

"Also, since this is a very congested area with both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, I believe it's a safety issue," Young said. 

The commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St. Also on the agenda:

  • A presentation on an assisted-living project by the Key West Housing Authority, by Executive Director Manuel Castillo.

  • Approving the commissioners' evaluations of City Clerk Cheri Smith. For the first time since the annual job review started, Smith received criticism among the rave reviews by the mayor and other leaders. Commissioner Margaret Romero says Smith could improve her job performance.

  • Approving the purchase of 12 additional LED street lamps for $23,196 from Anixter Inc. The lights last longer over standard lights and have backup capabilities, city staff said.

  • Awarding a contract of up to $34,700 to Premier Surface Solutions to resurface two tennis courts at Bayview Park in Old Town, one full basketball court at Nelson English Park in Bahama Village and half a basketball court at Cozumel Park in New Town.