The DeSantis administration is revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s alcohol license as punishment after one of its facilities hosted a drag show at which minors were allegedly present.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a 17-page complaint on Tuesday against the James L. Knight Center, which is affiliated with Hyatt, for hosting “A Drag Queen Christmas,” a holiday-themed drag show featuring some of the personalities from RuPaul’s Drag Race that tours throughout the country.
Although the show required people under the age of 18 to be accompanied by an adult in order to attend, the DeSantis administration has sought to use its influence — including its control over the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees business licensing — to crack down on any aspect of “woke” or LGBTQ culture, including drag shows.
Opposition to drag shows is largely based on the premise that they are harmful to children, because they expose youth to demonstrations of gender nonconformity or sexually-tinged content, which may inspire children to emulate that behavior in their personal lives.
In an administrative complaint, the DBPR accused the Hyatt Regency Miami of several violations of law, citing a heretofore rarely-enforced prohibition on “lascivious exhibition” in front of people younger than 16.
According to the department, “A Drag Queen Christmas” featured performers “wearing sexually suggesting (sic) clothing and prosthetic female genitalia,” as well as simulating masturbation.
The DBPR had previously balked at the way that “A Drag Queen Christmas” was marketed as an “all ages” event when tickets were being sold, and warned the Hyatt to prohibit minors from attending the show, or risk various penalties, including the loss of their liquor license, according to the right-wing outlet Florida Voice.
Organizers subsequently updated their advertising with a warning that the show contained “adult content” and was recommended only for those over 18 years of age.
Because some parents are believed to have allowed their children under the age of 18 to attend the show, the DBPR is following through on its threat to revoke the hotel’s liquor license. The aim is to send a message to other venues that allowing minors at events with potentially objectionable content is unacceptable.
“Sexually explicit content is not appropriate to display to children and doing so violates Florida law,” Bryan Griffin, the press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement. “Governor DeSantis stands up for the innocence of children in the classroom and throughout Florida.”
The Hyatt will be allowed to keep selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The business has 21 days to request a hearing, according to a spokeswoman for the DBPR.
Amir Blattner, general manager for Hyatt Regency Miami, told Business Insider that the hotel’s liquor license was still in effect and that the hotel was reviewing the complaint.
A third-party operator manages the Knight Center’s programming and ticketing while the hotel provides food and beverage concessions for the venue.
The Hyatt may not be the only facility in Florida to lose its license for hosting a drag show.
Last July, the DeSantis administration filed a complaint against R House Wynwood, a Miami bar that hosts drag brunches on 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 sought to revoke the bar’s liquor license for hosting the event.
In December, another venue, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, in Fort Lauderdale, was investigated and threatened with the loss of its liquor license for hosting “A Drag Queen Christmas” in a place where children might view the performances.
In February the DBPR filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza for hosting a drag event.
The controversy comes at a time when DeSantis, rumored to be mounting a 2024 presidential campaign, has sought to paint himself as a conservative warrior who is pushing back against the excesses of “woke” mainstream culture.
The governor previously signed the so-called “Parental Rights in Education” law — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics — which prohibits instruction or discussion of LGBTQ issues or identity up until fourth grade, and places restrictions on how such topics may be broached in older grades.
Several other states with Republican-led legislatures and GOP governors have sought to restrict displays of gender nonconformity, with Tennessee banning drag in public venues, Texas proposing to require businesses hosting drag shows to be classified as “sexually oriented” businesses, and Montana seeking to prohibit transgender people from identifying themselves according to their gender identity on official documents such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
Equality Florida, the state’s top LGBTQ rights organization, accused DeSantis of “selectively weaponizing” state agencies against businesses hosting drag performances, arguing that parents, not Republican officials, have the right to determine what shows or displays their children may or may not see.
“How far will [DeSantis] take this anti-LGBTQ crusade in his desperate attempt to outrace his inevitable presidential primary opponents?” said Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida. “Will he raid movie theaters because parents take their teenagers to see R-rated movies? Will he punish electronics stores because parents buy their children certain video games?
“How many businesses will DeSantis target, how many families will he force to co-parent with the government in his quest to manufacture right-wing hysteria that he can monetize and weaponize?”
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