DeSantis admin revokes Hyatt Miami’s liquor license after drag show


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida.
Phil Sears, file/AP photo

  • Florida regulators revoked a hotel’s liquor license for hosting a drag show performance where minors were present.
  • The DeSantis administration previously said it was reviewing A Drag Queen Christmas.
  • The minors were allowed to enter as long as they were accompanied by an adult.

The DeSantis administration is revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s liquor license after one of its facilities hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” with an underage audience.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a 17-page complaint Tuesday against the show’s venue, the James L. Knight Center, which is affiliated with Hyatt. The show required those under the age of 18 to be accompanied by an adult in order to participate.

A Drag Queen Christmas is a holiday-themed drag show that tours 36 different cities and features stars from the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The state’s Commerce Department accused the facility of several violations, including a ban on “lascivious display” in front of anyone under the age of 16, although it’s not clear to what extent this law is generally enforced.

The department said the performers “wore sexually suggestive clothing and prosthetic female genitalia” and simulated masturbation.

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Hyatt Regency Miami is allowed to continue selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The company has 21 days to request a hearing, department spokeswoman Beth Pannell told Insider.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is widely believed to be launching a presidential campaign in 2024, supported revoking the license.

“Sexually explicit content may not be shown to children and is against Florida law,” DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin told Insider. “Governor DeSantis stands for the innocence of children in the classroom and throughout Florida.”

Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights organization, accused DeSantis of “selectively weaponizing” state agencies against companies to target drag performances and said such decisions should be left to parents.

“How far will he take this anti-LGBTQ crusade in a desperate bid to overtake his inevitable prime presidential foes? Will he raid cinemas because parents take their teenagers to see R-rated movies? Will he punish electronics stores because parents buy their kids certain video games? How many companies will DeSantis target, how many families will he co-parent with the government to create right-wing hysteria that he can monetize and weaponize?” asked Brandon Wolf, spokesman for the group.

DeSantis signed into law a bill last year banning teaching about gender and sexual orientation in classrooms through third grade, and included vague language about how such topics might be taught in higher grades. The law, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education Act, was planned by LGBTQ rights groups as a “Don’t Say Gay” measure.

According to a copy of the letter included in the complaint, regulators had warned the drag performance organizers to change their marketing of the show before it went live. The letter accused the marketers of staging a performance that constituted “public nuisance, indecent activity and disorderly conduct” in the presence of minors.

The letter’s impetus was a screenshot of tickets being sold saying “All ages welcome.” The department warned the venue not to admit minors or otherwise face penalties, including an alcohol license revocation.

According to the complaint, A Drag Queen Christmas updated its advertising to say the show contained “adult content” and was recommended for ages 18+ unless accompanied by an adult.

News of the license revocation was first reported by the conservative-leaning news organization Florida Voice. A Florida Voice reporter attended the show and posted video on Twitter, prompting a state investigation into another venue, the Broward Center of the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, over a similar complaint.

The Hyatt may not be the only facility losing its license. In July 2022, the DeSantis administration filed a complaint against a Miami bar that was hosting a drag show in which underage persons were present. In February, it filed a similar complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza.

Kate Ruane, who runs US free speech programs at PEN America, a free speech advocacy group, said drag shows are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech. She called the revocation of the license “deeply concerning” and warned that other companies would not hold drag performances for fear of reprisals.

“A fundamental tenet of the First Amendment is that the government should not punish people simply because they disapprove of the substance of their speech,” Ruane said. “But this decision will hurt a company just because it supports language that the government doesn’t like.”

Legislation by Republicans in several states, including Florida, targets drag performances, with lawmakers saying they want to protect children from sexually explicit material. That year, Tennessee became the first country to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces like parks and schools.

Public libraries in the US have faced backlash from some parents in recent years for hosting drag queen story hours.

Hyatt Regency Miami did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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