Despite COVID Curfew, Key West New Year's Eve Features Early ‘Drag Queen Drop'

Thursday night’s festivities starred drag queen Sushi dressed in an elegant hand-sewn ensemble and a face shield to guard against the virus

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A female impersonator “dropped” in a giant replica of a high-heel shoe at a Key West entertainment and hotel complex Thursday night, marking the beginning of 2021 prior to a 10 p.m. curfew mandated by the city government to help prevent potential COVID-19 spread.

Thursday night’s festivities starred drag queen Sushi, the alter ego of Key West resident Gary Marion, dressed in an elegant hand-sewn ensemble and a face shield to guard against the virus. 

Perched in the giant red shoe suspended from a second-story balcony, she entertained a limited number of seated spectators in the courtyard of the Bourbon St. Pub complex. 

Several hours before midnight, Sushi was lowered in the shoe from the complex's balcony to a platform over the courtyard’s pool, in a symbolic welcome to 2021.

While multiple New Year’s Eve “drops” typically take place in Key West, including  those of a super-sized conch shell and a pirate wench, they were canceled to avoid drawing large crowds to downtown Duval Street and waterfront areas.

The 23rd annual “drag queen shoe drop,” which usually is staged on Duval Street before well over 1,000 spectators, was moved to the courtyard with reservation-only attendance strictly limited.

As a result of the curfew, Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said roughly 8 people were arrested including a business owner for not complying.

The owner, Joe Walsh, manages 5 restaurants in Key West and all have bonded out of jail.

The city had about 55 officers on Duval Street to keep crowds separated.

“We did expect some of this and most of the arrests were visitors into Key West. We normally have a large crowd in the 200 block of Duval and that’s exactly where most of the disturbances took place," Johnston said.

"On the whole, 99% of our businesses closed down at 10 o’clock. People were very respectful, but we had a small group of people that don’t believe in masks, don’t believe that they should have to wear one in the city of Key West and don’t believe that they had to abide by our curfew. The arrests were after repeated warnings."

The 10 p.m. curfew continues Friday and Saturday night.

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