Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is hitting entertainment venues where it hurts, threatening their liquor licenses over bawdy Christmas drag performances with children in attendance.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s alcohol division sought Tuesday to revoke the liquor license of the Hyatt Regency Miami over a Christmas drag extravaganza, saying the hotel violated state law by allowing a “sexually explicit show with children present.”
The administrative complaint centered on a Dec. 27 show at the James L. Knight Center, which is advertised by the hotel as a “directly connected” venue for special events. A similar complaint was filed last month against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation.
Both venues hosted showings of “A Drag Queen Christmas” over the holidays shortly after the department sent warning letters about admitting children. The Hyatt Regency was warned on Dec. 27, the day of the show, but the complaint said a subsequent investigation found minors were in attendance.
“Therefore, the Department is revoking the venue’s license for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages,” said DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin in a statement.
The 17-page complaint said the show was recommended for those 18 and older but allowed children accompanied by an adult to attend, even though the content included “perverted versions of popular children’s Christmas songs” such as “Screwdolph the Red-Nippled Reindeer.”
“Sexually explicit content is not appropriate to display to children and doing so violates Florida law,” Mr. Griffin said. “Governor DeSantis stands up for the innocence of children in the classroom and throughout Florida.”
The state’s decision to target liquor licenses comes with a culture war raging over drag queens, or men dressed up in outlandish female costumes and make-up, performing at libraries, schools and other venues where children are present.
The complaint alleged that children who appeared younger than 16 were in attendance during the show, which included performers “wearing sexually suggestive clothing and prosthetic female genitalia” engaged in “simulated sexual activity” and “lewd, vulgar, and indecent acts.”
They included performers who exposed their buttocks as well as prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience; simulated masturbation; rubbing their prosthetic female breasts against the “faces or oral cavities of audience members,” and “graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion.”
The songs included a version of “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” which “contained portrayals of oral fellatio” and the lyrics, “I’ll sit on his lap, he can put his milk and cookies all between my gap.”
The hotel “authorized, permitted, and maintained the Show to occur on its Licensed Premises, and, as a direct result of its admissions policies, knowingly exposed minor children to the conduct alleged herein,” the complaint said.
Amir Blattner, Hyatt Regency Miami general manager, said the hotel is reviewing the complaint and will address the situation through the administrative review process.
“The James L. Knight Center, including programming and ticketing, is managed by a third-party operator,” Mr. Blattner said in a statement. “The hotel is the food and beverage concessionaire at the James L. Knight Center.”
He also said that the hotel’s liquor license “remains in effect and has not been revoked.”
The department’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco filed a complaint Feb. 3 against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation and suspended its liquor license over a Dec. 28 performance, prompting pushback from a Democratic lawmaker.
“Governor Ron DeSantis’ culture wars are destroying people’s jobs and livelihoods. The very notion of shutting down a small business over a drag show is insane and extreme,” Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani told the Orlando Weekly.
In a statement, the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation Board of Directors said it had hosted “similar holiday drag performances for 8 consecutive years, without incident.”
“The Plaza Live has always been a welcoming and inclusive establishment that operates in good faith and compliance with all applicable laws,” the board statement said. “That includes respecting the rights of parents to decide what content is or is not appropriate for their own children.”
“A Drag Queen Christmas,” produced by Murray and Peter Present, marked its eighth year with its 36-city tour in winter 2022.
Some of the performances met with protests and debates over age restrictions. In Chesterfield, Missouri, the mayor responded by reaching an agreement to limit the audience to 18 and older.
“In no way is this meant to disrespect or put down the LGBTQ+ community, or in no way is this meant to restrict drag shows,” Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation told Fox2 News. “Those are legal entities, it’s just the content that we were told might occur. We thought we should suggest limiting the age limit, and the promoters readily did that.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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