This week, voters in Key West dealt a blow to cruise ships. With three referendums, residents chose to limit the number of passengers who can disembark in a day, ban large ships from docking, and prioritize ships with better health records.
NBC 6 anchor Sheli Muñiz spoke to the Mayor of Key West Teri Johnston as legal battles now brew.
Johnston said this started in 2013 with a resident concern that Key West was getting a lot of people in a very short period of time.
SHELI: What do we think the economic impact will be?
MAYOR JOHNSTON: Well, I think we’ve yet to see the full economic impact. We do have a group of businesses that basically geared their revenue from cruise ship passengers, but when you figure out really we have been for eight months without a cruise ship passenger, without an international passenger, the vast majority of businesses have started to rebound. Much of that has come from the fact that they've taken a look at their business plan and said we have to rewrite this.
SHELI: What was it about the extra traffic on the island that was such a turn off for people?
MAYOR JOHNSTON: Three cruise ships a day, we could have nine, 10, 11,000 people out onto Duval Street and take into consideration that Key West is a two-mile by four-mile island, so we’re relatively condensed anyway. We have 25,000 residents normally and then to have 11 to 12,000 people basically on Duval Street for a four or five-hour period of time, it just got a little unbalanced for the residents of Key West.
SHELI: With lawsuits already, where do we go from here?
MAYOR JOHNSTON: We do anticipate litigation, and in particular, Pier B, which is one of our three piers. We have a private agreement with Pier B and that will be left up to the lawyers and I know we'll be in the thick of that very shortly, but there are a number of small ships that meet the requirement, 1,300 passengers or the size of the ships so we anticipate those ships coming to port in Key West and well see what happens with Pier B and the litigation.