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Key West names its amphitheater after a local musician

Key West to consider naming amphitheater after local music great Coffee Butler

Coffee Butler has performed in Key West for 70 years, including for notables like President Harry Truman and the Beatles.
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Coffee Butler has performed in Key West for 70 years, including for notables like President Harry Truman and the Beatles.

Key West city leaders on Tuesday honored one of the island’s musical greats, 90-year-old Lofton “Coffee” Butler, by naming the local amphitheater after him.

It was a 6-0 vote. Jimmy Weekley was absent but supported the idea.

Mayor Teri Johnston told Butler he represents love and unity at a time when it’s needed.

“This is the easiest decision I’ve made on this dais.” said Commissioner Greg Davila, who was the first to bring the proposal to name the amphitheater after Butler.

With an open-air covered stage measuring 60 by 40 feet, the 3,500-seat amphitheater is located near Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. It has held concerts since late 2017.

Butler attended the meeting surrounded by friends and family, who along with the commissioners gave him a standing ovation after the vote.

City Manager Jim Scholl reminded the commission that selling the naming rights to the amphitheater would generate income to the city, but commissioners said naming the venue after Butler doesn’t rule out future corporate sponsorships.

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Lofton ‘Coffee’ Butler gets congratulated at City Hall for having the Key West amphitheater named after him on Aug. 6, 2019. Nan Klingener

Some locals reached out to city leaders urging them to hold out for selling the naming rights.

“We’ve had a lot of pressure not to do this,” said Commissioner Sam Kaufman, who called the vote a meaningful decision and co-sponsored the resolution.

Butler still performs regularly and has a gig set for Sept. 29 at the Key West Theater.

Butler, Cliff Sawyer and their friends will perform Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. at the Key West Theater, 512 Eaton St. The musical group includes City Commission Clayton Lopez on guitar and vocals.

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At 90, Lofton ‘Coffee’ Butler is still performing in his native Key West and has a show planned for Sept. 29, 2019, at the Key West Theater. Ralph DePalma

The show is presented by the theater and by local photographer Ralph DePalma, who has been chronicling Butler and other homegrown musicians in a series of books called “The Soul of Key West.”

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