Miami bar responds to drag show complaint

TALLAHASSEE — The restaurant, performer and person who took video at the center of a legal fight with Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration over the presence of children at a drag show brunch in Miami deny the complaint state law claiming obscene and inappropriate conduct.

The performer, who was shown on video leading a young girl at brunch in April, said a relative asked him to take the girl’s hand and walk with her because it was his birthday. The interpreter agreed, walked with the child “briefly” and then returned her to her parents.

“I would never do anything to hurt a child,” the entertainer, whose stage name is Poison Ivy, said in sworn testimony Aug. 16 to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which is investigating to find out if the place should lose its alcohol. performance license. The state agency provided a copy of the response to The Times/Herald this week in response to a public records request.

Related: DeSantis administration targets Miami bar with kid-attended drag show

R House, the restaurant under investigation, argued that the state should not punish the company because the parents decided to introduce their child to “the art of drag queen performance “. The complaint accuses the restaurant of exposing minors to “sexually explicit” behavior that “corrupts public morals and outrages the sense of public decency”, alleging that the restaurant takes issue as it contends that the events in question were lawful and “never put a child in danger”. .”

“We respect everyone’s right to have their own opinions; along with that, we believe parental choice is a key issue in these proceedings,” R House said in a statement sent to The Times/Herald. “We are optimistic that, when briefed on the full details of our case, the governor will continue his tradition of supporting private businesses and small businesses.”

R House’s legal response claims the venue did not infringe on the rights of others in the community, in part because the conduct was not visible to people who chose not to enter and the outfits worn by performers – a thong swimsuit and nipple pasties – are “commonplace for Floridians”.

R House’s attorneys ask the state for an opportunity to discuss a settlement in the case and ask to keep his liquor license.

The state agency said it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Defending pop culture

The state argued in an Aug. 26 complaint that “the performances simulated sexual activity — particularly when conducted in the presence of young children.” Therefore, the state argued that the conduct “constituted lewd activity and warranted revocation of respondent’s license.”

Citing precedent set by the Florida Supreme Court in 1947 which recognizes that “men impersonating women” in the context of “suggestive and indecent” performances constitute a public nuisance”, the state also said that R House should be “declared a nuisance”.

“Having children involved in this is wrong and it is not in accordance with our law and our policy in the State of Florida, and it is a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people,” a said DeSantis last month when talking about the Case. “This is not how you take care of our children. You protect the children. You don’t expose them.

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Related: Legal experts question Florida regulators’ action on this Miami bar’s drag shows

R House, however, said the on-site performances are impersonations of popular celebrities who regularly perform for the general public, including minors, “without legal consequences, regardless of provocative choreography and revealing outfits”.

“R House does not intend its entertainment to be sexual, lustful or indulgent. Rather, its intent is humor, technical mastery of pantomime and dance, and generally entertainment,” the director said. restaurant in the state.

The restaurant said the dragsters wore outfits that “cover their genital area, as well as their nipples and areolas”, and attached photos of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, to show how the swimsuits and pasties are worn in public regularly. base.

“Nationally and internationally, celebrities regularly wear ‘pasties’ at public events, including the MTV Video Music Awards, Paris Fashion Week, the Met Gala and live concerts (in) where minors are the welcome,” the restaurant explained. “Where dress and choreography are generally acceptable in public and on regulated broadcast media, they cannot be ‘manifestly injurious to the morals or mores of the people’.”

R House argued that her performance would have to fall below the standard of morality of the community in which she operates to be considered a nuisance, as claimed by the state.

“No patron viewing the conduct at R House depicted in the video cited by the state’s complaint was offended,” the restaurant said.

So who was offended?

Nonie Kalra, the client who recorded the video of the drag performance, said in an affidavit that she was not offended by the performer walking with the young child and that she felt the girl was “safe at all times”.

Kalra said she saw “no behavior that could be harmful to minors”, she saw “no nudity, indecent or obscene behavior” and found the performance “acceptable on the basis community standards of decency”. ”

After recording the video on April 16, Kalra said she posted the video on TikTok. On July 2, Lauren Chen, a Canadian resident, amplified it on her social media, which has tens of thousands of followers. The state opened its investigation in early July.

Related: How a Canadian influencer targeted this Florida bar for his drag shows

Chen’s critical comments were included in the state’s official complaint, which cited a “widely circulated” video on social media that “sparked public outrage.” The state agency also cited a Daily Mail article, published in London, to highlight angry reactions from Chen and others who agreed with it.

In its response to the state, R House cited a social media report showing the analyzes of the video.

“Only 17% of online video activity came from Florida, much of it favorable to drag performances,” the restaurant said. “There have been no cancellations, complaints or protests to R House regarding the video, subsequent social media attention or complaints from the state.”

The restaurant argued that DeSantis’ administration could only show that the offense was limited to social media outrage originating in Canada and Britain – not Florida.

The defense of parental rights

The presence of children at drag shows has become a rallying cry for some conservative activists across the country, who argue the issue should be treated as child abuse and that corporations should be held accountable.

DeSantis, who is seeking re-election in November and is widely seen as one of the top presidential candidates of 2024, has led the country against what conservative critics call “gender ideology,” including supporting and signing legislation that allows parents to intervene if they suspect gender instruction. gender identity and orientation in the classroom.

R House argued that parents decide what they expose their children to.

“The government should not penalize a minority business because the parents chose to introduce their child to the art of drag performance, as it is their right guaranteed by the United States Constitution and its amendments, and the Florida Constitution “, claimed the restaurant.

R House said it does not encourage children to come to the premises, but parents are allowed to bring children and guests are regularly informed that minors must be accompanied by a parent.

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