Ebbe & Flut hosted a drag brunch. Now Texas could tax it like a sex-oriented business
The Texas Comptroller’s Office has opened another investigation into a North Texas facility to determine if it is a sexually oriented company for hosting drag shows. The office sent a letter to the location of the Ebb & Flow restaurant and bar in Plano on February 2.
The letter states that the auditor inquired whether the company should be considered to be sexually oriented and should therefore pay the required fees as such. Under Texas law, sexually oriented businesses must pay a fee of $5 per customer to the Comptroller’s Office. The letter states that even if an establishment only occasionally hosts sexually oriented events, it could still be asked to pay the fee for those events.
The bureau required Ebb & Flow to complete a Sexually Oriented Business Fees Questionnaire within 30 days in order to set up an account to pay the fees. However, it also said that if the company felt it was not liable for a fee, it could provide a description of the facility and its rationale for consideration by the auditing authority.
In an email statement to the observer, a spokesman for the bureau said the comptroller would not comment on a pending investigation. However, the spokesman sent a statement from Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar about the role his office plays in administering the sex-oriented business fee.
Hegar said in the statement, “While lawmakers take decisive steps to protect Texas children and strengthen laws restricting sexualized performances, my office will continue to work within the limits of existing law and investigate performances to determine whether a company is violating the.” pay the fees associated with operating a sexually oriented business.”
Asked for comment, an employee at Ebb & Flow’s Plano site said they were not allowed to speak about the investigation and recommended contacting corporate headquarters. No one else from the company responded to comment.
The bar and restaurant received backlash after one of its monthly drag brunches in October last year. At the drag brunch, some adult-themed content was shown and a child was present. The event was advertised as being for an adult audience. But owner Dallas Hale said so observer and several other publications at the time, warning parents before purchasing their tickets to the event online and at the door that it would contain adult content.
Regarding the backlash, Hale said, “The best way to deal with this is to keep moving forward and keep performing.”
The Criminal Court’s office attempted to take the same action against Dallas gay bar Mr. Misster for hosting its drag shows. “As a father, I take this matter extra seriously and am committed to having my agency do everything in its power to ensure this facility and others are in full compliance with Texas law,” Hegar said in a statement about Mr. Misster at the time
But when all was said and done, the comptroller finally said that state laws regarding sex-oriented businesses didn’t allow him to tax the bar. It is uncertain what exactly is different about the Court’s ebb and flow inquiry.
“If I were a Republican, I would be so concerned about the Comptroller — who should be a custodian of incoming Texas tax dollars and the Texas budget — I would be so concerned about him wasting time on frivolous matters and trying to cause harm to small ones.” Companies like this,” said Susie Hess, president of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas observer.
“It just smacks of someone planning their next political campaign instead of taking on the tasks entrusted to them by the constituents who voted for them,” she said. “You’re addressing a very small minority of people who completely misunderstand the LGBTQ community and have decided that somehow transgender people and people who dress in drags are the next political punching bag.
“This is hateful, discriminatory and needs to stop.”
Rep. Venton Jones, a Dallas Democrat, said so observer that facilities that host drag shows are not sexually oriented businesses. “As a state legislature and a member of the LGBTQ community, it saddens me that such tactics are used in retaliation against venues hosting drag shows,” Jones said. “We must not continue this war against LGBTQ people and their families, Texans against other Texans right now.”
Several bills were introduced during this legislature to crack down on drag performances in the state. Two bills filed before the Texas meeting came from Representatives Jared Patterson of Frisco and Matt Shaheen of West Plano and Far North Dallas. Patterson filed House Bills 643 and Shaheen House Bill 708, both of which aim to change the definition of sexually oriented businesses to include any location where drag shows are held.
Just this week, Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Republican from Royse City, introduced House Bill 4129 to ban drag shows in the presence of children. Hosting a drag show in the presence of children would be a third-degree felony under Slaton’s law. It also makes it a third degree crime for a sexually oriented company to allow erotic performances in the presence of a child.
The first offense would result in a $10,000 fine, and the second offense could result in the revocation of a company’s business license. If HB 4129 is enacted, it would come into effect in September.