Florida Keys

Keys restaurant to cops: We found a way to thank you

Mike Forster, owner of Mangrove Mike’s Cafe in Islamorada, is offering free meals to police officers of all agencies serving Monroe County.
Mike Forster, owner of Mangrove Mike’s Cafe in Islamorada, is offering free meals to police officers of all agencies serving Monroe County. The Reporter

Mike Forster, Islamorada Village councilman and longtime restaurateur, has a message for law enforcement in the Keys: Not only are you welcome, the meal is on the house.

In the wake of the murders of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, Forster, owner of Mangrove Mike’s Cafe in Islamorada, issued the following statement on his Facebook page: “Mangrove Mike's Cafe, to show our sincere appreciation for all that our Men & Woman in Law Enforcement (Police, FWC, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, FHP in uniform etc..) that are out there to protect and serve, so that we can all live in a Civilized Society, We are honored to now offer you FREE MEALS DURING EVERY HOUR THAT WE ARE OPEN ! Thank You for Your Service and Dedication.”

Forster said that the policy is indefinite.

“As long as I own Mangrove Mike’s, the deal stands,” he said. The popular eatery is on the bay side of U.S. 1 at mile marker 82.2.

The Keys has less violent crime than many other places in the nation, but Monroe County sheriff’s deputies, Florida Highway Patrol troopers, officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and agents working for the plethora of federal agencies here nevertheless face an inherent risk every day.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay points out that his deputies have been involved in two high-profile shootouts in the past 18 months -- one of those, in Key Largo, also involved an FHP trooper. And with the brazen attacks in Baton Rouge and Dallas, police officers’ jobs arguably became more dangerous than ever.

“If there was ever a time to support local law enforcement, it’s now,” Ramsay said. “Mike Forster has always been a strong supporter of local law enforcement. And, it’s really important to our guys and gals to see that our community does care bout them and they’re not by themselves out there.”

FHP Lt. Kathleen McKinney also praised Forster’s decision.

“Law enforcement is incredibly fortunate to have the support of the Mike Forsters in our community,” McKinney said. “We have a great deal of support and I believe that’s because law enforcement here is part of the community.”

McKinney and Ramsay both said most people in the Keys realize that living in a relatively safe community requires a partnership between the police and the citizenry. That relationship makes enforcing the law in the Keys and protecting its people a little easier.

“We can’t let the rhetoric prevent us from doing our jobs to the best of our ability. I’ve been in law enforcement over 30 years. Law officers come to work every day to make a positive difference in someone’s life,” McKinney said. “We do that here on a daily basis, and we can’t let negativity prevent us from giving our all. Having a wonderfully supportive and appreciative community, with people like Mike Forster, certainly helps us walk through the door each day for work, to continue to protect and serve.”

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204