Key West is back, ready to kick off 2022 with annual NYE party

Mon. December 6, 2021 9:38 AM by Ross Forman

island house key west

photo credit // provided
A renowned, longtime drag queen named Sushi will be back in the spotlight on New Year’s Eve in Key West, Florida, for the annual Red High Heel Shoe Drop.

And to kick off 2022, the event will be held at midnight.

A year ago, due to COVID-19 concerns, many local events were canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, especially after the City of Key West imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on December 31, 2020.

Sushi is back in business for 2022, as she sits in a 6-foot-tall high heel as it descends from the roof of Bourbon Street Pub.

Yep, looks like it will be a great winter in the southernmost city in the U.S.

And not just for Sushi.

“Winter is shaping up to be a great (period) for Island House. Travel planning is unpredictable, but right now guys are ready to get out of their homes and visit paradise,” said Jeff Smead, 37, general manager of Island House Key West – where he has worked for 10 years.

Smead moved into the GM role in 2021after a tumultuous 18 months of pandemic nightmares, particularly for the hospitality industry.

In March 2020, Island House Key West announced it was closing due to the pandemic for an undetermined amount of time. They reopened on June 1, 2020.

But normalcy was not back upon reopening.

“We took the same hit that so many across the world have had to endure. We lost reservations, deposits, team members, and even lost loved ones. COVID has easily brought the most challenges to Island House than any other time,” Smead said. “Sometimes change makes us stronger. In this case, it really did. Despite the challenges, we’ve held on to our amazing staff, some of whom have been with Island House for over 15 years. We also have some incredible guests who made it a priority to support Island House amazingly well through this challenging time, and we cannot thank them enough.”

Island House, long dubbed the Best Gay Resort In The World, endured management changes over the past year, too.

Bobi Lore is now the sole owner of the resort.

“Bobi loves Island House and has no desire to change the business model, or to sell the property,” Smead said. “He was there every step of the way through the months of COVID closure and has made some calculated decisions to ensure that Island House not only keeps its doors open, but continues to strive.”

Island House is a must-visit destination in Key West. Stay for a night, a weekend, or a week.  Or just enjoy the gym or the drinks.

And, of course, the pool.

Especially during its weekly Pool Parties, held on Wednesdays and Sundays.

“I remember when we started having pool parties. We worried that they might not gain traction. Luckily, we had nothing to worry about,” Smead said of the popular, skin-showing and splashing event held on Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m., and on Wednesdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

“The pool parties really are where we shine: (with naked) pool-boys, raffles, giveaways, and a packed house, and pool, of men from around the world. There’s not much better than that.”

Smead said Island House management is focused on growing its business, including upcoming renovations/improvements, and more.

“You have no idea what you’re missing until you’re here … then you get it,” Smead said.

Island House will resume its popular social media video filming and add a four-station kegerator for craft cocktails on tap.

“People ask me all the time the meaning behind the multi-color version of our capital/lowercase logo. Easy answer: All shapes, colors and sizes,” Smead said.

“The pandemic certainly gave the gay community time for some pent-up demand. Ever since the vaccine started to roll out, the demand for a domestic vacation of this nature went through the roof. Sadly, we must turn people down for last-minute trips because we simply have no rooms available. I cannot stress this enough: you need to book your stay early to get the kind of room you are looking for. If you wait till last-minute and we miraculously have availability during those dates, the remaining options will be limited.”

Key West is a nonstop flight from Chicago and Island House is nonstop fun, all year round. All kinds of fun – in the pool, in rooms and obviously in the playroom.

For more about Island House, go to: Features and Travel Editor Ross Forman spotlights seven travel destinations for fall/winter adventures. Click here for Ross’ story with worldwide travel tips.