DeSantis Admin Revoking Liquor License From Orlando Venue for Allowing Children at ‘Drag Queen Christmas’

By Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger mostly covers issues around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for The Epoch Times. He also closely followed the 2022 midterm elections. He is a veteran of print newspapers in Florida and upstate New York and now lives in the Atlanta area.
February 3, 2023Updated: February 6, 2023

The state of Florida is yanking the liquor license of an Orlando performance venue, saying the “Drag Queen Christmas” show it hosted in December was sexually explicit while being marketed to families and children.

Advertising for the event “did not provide notice as to the sexually explicit nature of the Show’s performance or other content,” the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco said in its complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation Inc., filed Feb. 3.

“Respondent promoted the Show using targeted, Christmas-themed promotional materials that did not provide notice as to the sexually explicit nature of the Show’s performance or other content,” the complaint said, referencing a photo of the event’s listing online included as evidence.

“Rather than call attention to the Show’s sexually explicit content or acknowledge that it might not be appropriate for children, Respondent’s promotional material unequivocally stated “all ages welcome.”

“Prior to the Show occurring and based on media reports about the Show at other locations, Petitioner sent a letter to Respondent notifying Respondent that ‘sexually explicit drag show performances constitute public nuisances, lewd activity and disorderly conduct when minors are in attendance’ and that, if Respondent failed to ensure that minors were prohibited from attending such performances, its license would be subject to penalties up to and including revocation.”

Notice on Door

The center nevertheless allowed minors to attend, the complaint states. Its only response was to post a notice on its door that said, “while we are not restricting access to anyone under 18 please be advised some may think the context is not appropriate for under 18.”

The notice was barely visible, as it was printed in small font on a piece of paper taped to the door, the state said in the complaint.

The complaint includes photos of children attending the event and some of the objectionable content as evidence.

The complaint charges the arts center with six counts: allowing performers to expose themselves in a lewd or lascivious manner and simulate sexual activity in the presence of children under 16; operating a “place of lewdness”; “allowing performers to expose prosthetic genitalia and breasts in a vulgar or indecent manner in the presence of children”; knowingly selling tickets to an obscene performance to an audience including children; disorderly conduct; and maintaining a nuisance.

In the complaint, the division’s attorney asks its director, Sterling Whisenhunt, to revoke the center’s liquor license.

The complaint describes examples of the show’s sexually explicit content, which The Epoch Times does not include in this account.

In response, the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation, Inc. released an official statement Monday:

“The Plaza Live has always been a welcoming and inclusive establishment that operates in good faith and compliance with all applicable laws. That includes respecting the rights of parents to decide what content is or is not appropriate for their own children.  After hosting similar holiday drag performances for eight consecutive years without incident, we have just been made aware of this administrative complaint and are working with our legal team to evaluate and respond appropriately.”

The Orlando Philharmonic’s director of marketing and sales, Cristina Venturini, who relayed the official statement, declined further comment.

“Governor (Ron) DeSantis stands to protect the innocence of children, and the governor always follows through when he says he will do something,” his spokesman, Bryan Griffin, said in an email on Feb. 3.

Griffin had said on Dec. 27 that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation was investigating the show. The department was aware, he said, of multiple complaints about a performance of the show in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 26.

By contrast, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater clearly stated for a Dec. 29 performance of the show that attendance was restricted to those 18 or older, and proof of age would be required.

Independent journalist Tayler Hanson, who attended one of the shows, told The Epoch Times in December he is glad someone is doing something.

“I’m thankful to see someone taking action regarding the sexually explicit ‘all-ages’ Drag Queen Christmas Tour that I reported on earlier this month,” Hansen told The Epoch Times.

“Simulated sodomy, exposed fake breasts, and sexually explicit language has no place around children. There is no such thing as a ‘family-friendly’ or ‘all-ages’ drag show. Florida has once again continued to lead the way when it comes to protecting children.”

This report has been updated to include a response from the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation, Inc.