Orlando venue Plaza Live threatened with loss of liquor license over hosting drag show last year

‘In the United States we do not allow the government to determine what we can read, see or hear.’

The Plaza Live may have its liquor license pulled by a preening Governor - Photo courtesy Plaza Live/Facebook
Photo courtesy Plaza Live/Facebook
The Plaza Live may have its liquor license pulled by a preening Governor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis escalated his campaign against drag in Florida on Friday, making moves to pull the liquor license from Orlando venue the Plaza Live in the wake of a trumped-up investigation over minors at a local drag show.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. filed a complaint (quickly shared by numerous conservative websites, first by Florida's Voice) on Friday afternoon against the Milk District venue for hosting a "sexually explicit" drag show that minors were allowed to attend back in late December. Due to this claim of violating Florida statute, the state of Florida intends to strip the venue of its liquor license.

The Plaza Live — besides serving as the performing home base of the Orlando Philharmonic — hosts a robust slate of touring bands, comedians, YouTubers and, yes, drag performers. Why, even the governor himself took part in an event there with Dave Rubin. (Talk about obscene!)

For those who may have missed this in the rush of the holidays, here's a quick run-down. At the end of December, the Drag Queen Christmas tour — a tour featuring alumnae of the popular TV series RuPaul's Drag Race — returned to Florida for several dates between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

On the day before the Orlando tour stop, DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin posted a tweet warning venues hosting dates on the Christmas tour: “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.” (This after a conservative activist attempted to disrupt the Monday night performance in Fort Lauderdale, complaining to anyone who would listen that minors were in the venue being exposed to explicit performances.)

On the afternoon of the Orlando show on Dec. 28, mere hours before the queens were set to take the stage, the DBPR issued a warning letter to the Plaza Live venue stating that the venue would lose its license if minors were allowed in.

Despite this, the show went off without a hitch — though there were a smattering of protesters and quite a few counter-protesters nearby the Plaza — and the touring troupe moved on to perform in Clearwater the next day. What followed was just over a month of, in retrospect, ominous silence, while the DBPR "investigated" the matter. And today, the results of said investigation were quietly released.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani released a statement to Orlando Weekly late Friday afternoon, condemning the state's actions in no uncertain terms. "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," said Eskamani. "In the United States we do not allow the government to determine what we can read, see or hear or who we can gather with. Targeting drag performances limits everyone’s freedom of speech and is all a part of the Governor’s sick anti-LGBTQ+ agenda."

“This is about dehumanizing LGBTQ people and targeting them for retribution by the state by portraying LGBTQ people as abberant and deviant. It's absolutely disgusting and should not be tolerated," said civil rights attorney Alejandra Caraballo on Twitter Friday. And if you don't see a pattern running through the "Don't Say Gay" law, banning trans women from high-school athletics and this … we're really not sure what else to say, other than get your eyes checked.

The Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation Board of Directors released a statement in response on Friday night. "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," read the statement. "After hosting similar holiday drag performances for 8 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."

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