By Hank Tester

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FLORIDA KEYS (CBSMiami) – While the Florida Keys are likely weeks from any full-fledged tourism push, CBS4 News has learned Monroe County leaders are hoping tourists give them about another week or so before going down to start pumping life back into the Keys economy.

“This is the main area that got damaged from the roof and the rest was all underwater,” said Mike Dawson.

The interior of the Shipwreck’s Bar & Grill, one of Key Largo’s legendary watering holes and tourist attractions, was trashed by Irma. The establishment is scrambling to get back in business.

The question is are the Upper Keys ready for tourists?

“Come on down. We are all back up and running. Good to go. We encourage people to come down. We definitely need it back,” said Buffy Sherman of Buzzard’s Roost Restaurant.

Tourism drives the Keys economy – cash flow is critical.

But what kind of tourism experience will it be?

“Restaurants are open but limited menus. Hotels housing emergency responders. It will be a while before the Keys are ready for tourists,” said Tommy Thompson.

The further down the Keys, the more challenges – especially east of Key West.

Power is back to 76 percent of the Lower Keys. Northern Keys almost at 98 percent power restoration. Most of the Keys still under a boil water notice.

Key Largo’s Denny’s Latin Cafe is not ready for tourists or even locals. The roof is currently being repaired.

“Most of the businesses are opening up now. I would say starting Monday we should be limited but ready to go,” said owner Armando Diaz.

Dan Dawson, a dive boat owner, has been through this hurricane drill before and knows the deal.

“About three weeks after we will start to see people coming back in,” he said.

So a visit right now won’t be the Keys experience you are used too, but a visit would be appreciated by those open for business.


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