Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to pull the liquor license of a Miami hotel connected to a Christmas drag show performance. With the allegations based on third-party accounts, critics are already dismissing the move as a specious stunt.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Tuesday filed an administrative complaint against Hyatt Regency Miami. The move came months after the DeSantis administration targeted venues around the state that hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas.”
The new complaint said the hotel allowed the show on its “licensed premises” on Dec. 27, a reference to a performance at the James L. Knight Center.
“During the Show and in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age, performers appeared on stage wearing sexually suggestive clothing and prosthetic female genitalia,” reads the complaint from the administration. “The Show features numerous segments where performers engaged in acts of sexual conduct, simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays.”
State officials say the complaint kicks off the process of revoking the hotel’s license.
But the hotel notes it didn’t even host the show; it just served as a vendor for the event.
“The James L. Knight Center, including programming and ticketing, is managed by a third-party operator. The hotel is the food and beverage concessionaire at the James L. Knight Center,” said Amir Blattner, general manager, of the Hyatt Regency Miami.
“We can confirm the hotel’s liquor license remains in effect and has not been revoked. We are reviewing this complaint and will address the situation directly with the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation as part of administrative review process.”
The complaint states performers rubbing prosthetic breasts in the faces and “oral cavities” of audience members, exposing buttocks, simulating masturbation by “digitally penetrating a prosthetic female genital” and depicting “childbirth and/or abortion” graphically on stage.
“Additionally, videos were projected on screens behind the performers. The videos included images of exposed female breasts with less than a fully opaque covering,” the complaint states.
The state also takes issue with a performance of “Screwdolph the Red-Nipped Reindeer” and graphic lyrics which included words like “Dildo,” “Dicks-In” and “shiny bust.”
Many of the details appear to come from a critical article in The Floridian, a conservative blog, which interviewed a 12-year-old who attended the show (and planned to brag she saw it to friends).
The complaint said the show violated state law by first being marketed as all ages, and by allowing minors into the show even with adults.
The state asked the Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco to revoke the hotel’s liquor license. That’s based on alleged violation of pornography statutes regarding any buildings that “injure the health or the community” or become “manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people.”
Immediately, critics said the DeSantis’ basis for the action appeared legally weak.
“Ron DeSantis is moving to suspend the liquor license of the Hyatt Regency for hosting a drag queen Christmas in December and allegedly having minors present,” tweeted Harvard Law instructor Alejandra Caraballo. “They couldn't even substantiate the allegations. This is the only evidence they have. It's pathetic.
“They are launching a case based on speculation that someone ‘appearing’ to be under the age of 16 was present. Even if they were, it's not grounds for removing a liquor license. Drag is not lewd, nor is it a public nuisance as the state claims.”
Equality Florida slammed the move as well.
“Once again, Governor DeSantis is selectively weaponizing state agencies against businesses for allowing parents to make decisions about what entertainment their families consume,” read a statement from Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf.
“How far will he take this crusade in his desperate attempt to outrace his inevitable presidential primary opponents? Will he raid movie theaters because parents take their teenagers to see R-rated movies? Will he punish electronics stores because parents buy their children certain video games? How many businesses will DeSantis target, how many families will he force to co-parent with the government in his quest to manufacture right wing hysteria that he can monetize and weaponize?”