Metro Weekly

DeSantis May Yank Theater’s Liquor License Over Drag Show

Florida is launching an investigation into a venue for hosting an 18+ drag show officials claim was "marketed to children."

Poster for “A Drag Queen Christmas” – Photo: Murray and Peter Present, via Instagram

The state of Florida is investigating a South Florida theater for hosting a Christmas-themed drag show based on allegations that the show was “marketed to children,” despite conflicting information listed on the venue’s website.

Bryan Griffin, the press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, announced the investigation into the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Twitter for hosting Murray and Peter Present: A Drag Queen Christmas, a show emceed by drag queen Nina West and featuring various drag queens, including many who have made appearances on the TV series RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The show, which features adult content that some feel is risqué, stopped in at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Fort Lauderdale and the James L. Knight Center in Miami as part of a national tour.

Both venues’ websites said that the drag shows were for audiences over the age of 18, unless a minor was accompanied by a parent.

“The Department of Business and Professional Regulation is aware of multiple complaints about a sexually explicit performance marketed to children held in Fort Lauderdale on December 26th,” the DBPR said in a statement, adding that it is looking at video footage and photos to determine whether any children were present at the show.

“Exposing children to sexually explicit activity is a crime in Florida, and such action violates the Department’s licensing standards for operating a business and holding a liquor license,” the statement continues. “The Department will share any collected evidence with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for potential criminal liability.”

The statement also thanked the public for providing complaints to the department and for “bringing attention to these incidents…. Investigations of such allegations will remain a priority for the Department and, indeed, are ongoing” 

Part of the confusion appears to be due to a change in the language.

Initially, the Broward Center said the drag show was for “all ages” and contained a disclaimer about adult content, but later edited its website to clarify that the event was for patrons 18 and over.

A spokesperson for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts rejected the state’s assertion that the drag show was marketed to children.

“To ensure patrons were aware of the adult themes and content in the show, this information was on the website and ticket purchase page; all ticket buyers were also informed directly through a ‘Know Before You Go’ email, a customer communication that is sent out in advance of most shows,” a statement from the Center’s media department said in a statement sent to Miami-based radio station WLRN.

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts could face charges stemming from the investigation, and could see its three liquor licenses, including one that allows for consumption of beer, wine, or liquor on the premises, revoked by the state as punishment for hosting the drag show if children were present, regardless of whether their parents brought them to the venue.

The DBPR, which licenses and regulates businesses in the state of Florida, falls under the purview of the governor’s office. As governor, DeSantis has made it his mission to crack down on any aspects of “woke” culture, including public drag shows.

Opposition to such shows is largely based on the premise that children might be exposed to examples of gender-nonconformity or sexually-tinged content and seek to emulate that behavior in their personal lives.

This marks the second time that DeSantis’s administration has cracked down on a venue for hosting a drag show. In July, the governor launched a similar investigation into R House Wynwood, a Miami bar that hosts drag brunches on the weekends, after a viral video showed a scantily-clad drag queen holding the hand of a young child and walking around the restaurant during a performance. 

The state moved to revoke the bar’s liquor license for hosting the event, but no action appears to have been taken. However, DeSantis, at the time in the middle of a re-election campaign, used the opportunity to decry the presence of children at such events as inappropriate.

“We said, ‘Wait a minute, having kids involved in this is wrong,'” DeSantis said. “And it is a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people. That is not the way you look out for our children. You protect children. You do not expose them to things that are inappropriate.”

The governor — and fellow Republican lawmakers — have previously floated the idea of passing a bill during next year’s legislative session that would ban children from drag shows and prosecute parents who take their children to such events.

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