Orlando venue fined $5K for admitting children to ‘explicit’ Christmas drag show

Orlando Venue Pays Fine After Allowing Children at “Sexually Explicit” Drag Show

ORLANDO, Fla. – In a recent settlement agreement, an Orlando performing arts venue has paid a $5,000 fine after permitting children to attend a Christmas drag show last year that was deemed “sexually explicit,” according to state records.

The Plaza Live Foundation, as revealed in a consent order released on Thursday, agreed in August to pay the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations the aforementioned fine as part of its settlement with the state. Additionally, the venue pledged not to admit anyone under 18 years old to any performance that involves or depicts activities violating the state’s obscenity laws, as outlined in the order.

The controversy surrounding the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation began when the venue hosted a performance titled “A Drag Queen Christmas” by the drag group Drag Fans in December 2022. The state had previously cautioned the venue about allowing children to attend the show, and event staff had even posted a letter warning guests that some content might not be suitable for minors.

Secretary Melanie Griffin of the FLDBPR wrote, “In short, if you allow children to attend the Drag Fans drag show at your facility, you are putting your license in jeopardy. If minors are allowed to attend this drag show, the Department will take any and all actions available to ensure that you do not pose a threat to minors in the future.”

However, an investigation later revealed that three underage individuals had attended the show, which reportedly included simulations of “sexual activity,” such as humping, mimicking fellatio, and “swinging what appeared to be male genitalia.” Furthermore, a complaint filed by the state in February claimed that the show featured sexualized adaptations of popular Christmas songs, exposed buttocks, prosthetic genitals, and possibly even a performer simulating an abortion on stage.

State officials emphasized that exposing children to sexually explicit content is a crime in Florida, thereby violating licensing standards for business operations and liquor licenses. Consequently, state officials subsequently threatened to revoke the venue’s liquor license. Following these developments, Florida lawmakers passed the “Protection of Children” Act (SB 1438), which prohibits children from attending any “adult live performance.” Although the law does not explicitly mention drag shows, it was enacted following the crackdown on the Plaza Live Foundation and similar drag performances in Florida.

While supporters argue that the law prevents children from being exposed to obscene content, critics contend that it may infringe upon First Amendment protections. The law is currently entangled in a Supreme Court case after Orlando restaurant Hamburger Mary’s, known for its “family-friendly” drag performances, filed a lawsuit claiming that the legislation has scared away guests and harmed the restaurant’s business.

Owner John Paonessa shared, “We obviously had to stop allowing people to bring their children in, and the moment we announced that, 20% of our bookings went down on Sunday and cancellations followed the next Sunday, so it is taking a hit on the business.”

In response to the restaurant’s lawsuit, state attorneys have argued that Hamburger Mary’s would not be directly affected by the law since its performances are not sexually explicit. “Hamburger Mary’s claims it has excluded children from its performances because of the act, but it also claims no intention to host performances that even arguably would require it to exclude children,” the defendants wrote in June.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision stating that Florida cannot enforce the law while the case is ongoing, but state attorneys are pushing for a reversal of that decision.

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