Get out of our city, Key West leaders tell Lyft

Key West city officials Thursday sent the ride-sharing company Lyft a cease-and-desist order demanding it stop hiring drivers because of a local law requiring specific permits held by taxi companies.

Lyft hadn’t replied by midday Friday, said Code Compliance Director Jim Young, who downloaded the Lyft app and ordered a ride March 24 after receiving a complaint.

Last week Lyft had announced adding Key West and the Florida Keys to its list of more than 300 cities, just as Florida lawmakers have shown support for ride-sharing services such as Uber.

Young gave a “good neighbor courtesy notice” to driver Ceaser A. Gonzalez of Key West but said police will get involved if Lyft doesn’t voluntarily comply with the city’s order.

“We wanted to give them an opportunity, to educate them,” Young said. “I gave the driver the code violation, he doesn’t have to go to court. Then I drafted seven letters, cease and desist, and sent them certified to the board of directors for Lyft Florida Inc.”

Two years ago, Key West police arrested three Uber drivers for violating the local vehicle-for-hire law, all nabbed in undercover stings. Richard Owen Uhl pleaded guilty and did community service hours while Hank Allen paid $500 in a deal to have the charge dropped. The third case against Martin Maness was dismissed.

Key West city commissioners last year decided to keep ride-sharing banned until the state Legislature worked out some regulations after a public meeting that drew some 200 people protesting Uber and the like as unfair competition to the island’s cabs.

Mayor Craig Cates and other elected leaders, though, said Uber and Lyft can’t be kept out of Key West forever.