Sloppy Joe’s Rises Again: Classic Key West Bar Has Re-Opened

After a six-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sloppy Joe’s, the Key West bar that Ernest Hemingway frequented in the 1930s, reopened Thursday.

Returning patrons might have thought they spotted Hemingway himself raising a toast at the iconic bar — because the reopening drew several men who looked uncannily like the author who lived and wrote in Key West for nearly a decade.

Sloppy Joe’s closed March 17 when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the shutdown of the state’s bars, pubs and nightclubs in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Sloppy Joe’s has been closed 184 days, so for us to be able to reopen the doors today — we are so happy to welcome everyone back to Sloppy Joe’s and Key West,” said Donna Edwards, a spokesperson for the bar.

Virus concerns also forced the cancellation of the 40th annual “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, held at the bar each July. The three-night competition typically draws about 150 stocky, bearded entrants, with their supporters and hundreds of spectators, and organizers were concerned about staging it amid packed crowds.

When Sloppy Joe’s reopening was announced, however, several  “Papa” Hemingway look-alikes couldn’t stay away.

“Coming back to Sloppy Joe’s is a wonderful thing,” said Charlie Boice, who won the  2015 contest and drove from his home in Jupiter, Fla., just for the reopening. “For most people, it’s (Sloppy Joe’s) just a destination on a cruise or a destination on vacation. “But for the ‘Papas,’ this is home,” he said.

Sloppy Joe’s management plans to operate the reopened bar at 50 percent capacity, maintain strict social distancing and require patrons to wear face coverings except when seated to eat or drink.

The next Hemingway Look-Alike Contest is scheduled July 22-24, 2021.


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