Florida Keys

Can a Key lime pie seller stand outside his shop? Depends on how you slice it

Pie shop owner Kermit Carpenter gets a kiss from an admirer outside his Key West business.
Pie shop owner Kermit Carpenter gets a kiss from an admirer outside his Key West business. Kermit Carpenter

Key West is no stranger to drama involving pie.

First, it was a debate whether Key lime pie was even invented in the southernmost city after a cookbook author claimed it was first created in New York by a corporation.

This week, the talk was over whether it’s legal for a pie maker to stand outside his shop.

Someone apparently complained that he was blocking the sidewalk by standing outside on the corner greeting would-be customers in his tall, lime green chef’s hat.

Kermit Carpenter has been doing just that for about 25 years. He often poses for pictures with visitors. Sometimes, he even gets a kiss on the cheek from a passing visitor.

But after the complaint, the city’s code compliance department called him out him for breaking the rules. The reason: He was blocking the sidewalk in the 200 block of Elizabeth Street, just steps away from the Key West Historic Seaport.

Carpenter criticized the city’s order on his Facebook page and asked people to respond. He got his share of supporters. A few of them even said they wrote to their elected officials to oppose what was a verbal warning from code compliance.

Then the city got a little pie in the face. Soon after the social hullabaloo, the assistant city manager reversed the decision.

“It was a misunderstanding,” Greg Veliz said. “He is an institution.”

Kermit fans rejoiced, with a couple demanding to know who complained. The city didn’t say.

“You’ll see Kermit back out front in his usual spot,” Carpenter announced on Facebook, updating the original post with an update about Veliz’s decision. “Thank you for your support.”

But initially, Kermit Carpenter defended himself and his Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shoppe from the code decision, saying the city was banning him from standing outside his own business.

The pie shop posted: “The business which he has poured his blood, sweat and tears into for the past 27 years, all while promoting our beautiful island on more than 40 international travel and food television shows, magazines, newspapers and blogs, while also supporting a vast number of local Key West organizations, charities, youth sports teams and even cooking and providing massive amounts of food for locals and first responders, including city employees, during Hurricane Irma and other natural disasters.”

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