DeSantis administration is revoking Hyatt Regency Miami alcohol license after it hosted 'A Drag Queen Christmas'

Gov. Ron DeSantis talking at a microphone.
Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference on March 7 in Tallahassee, Florida.Phil Sears, File/AP Photo
  • Florida regulators are revoking a hotel liquor license for hosting a drag show performance where minors were present.

  • The DeSantis administration had previously said it was looking into "A Drag Queen Christmas."

  • The minors were allowed in as long as they were accompanied by an adult.

The DeSantis administration is revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami's alcohol license after one of its facilities hosted "A Drag Queen Christmas" with minors present in the 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 people under 18 to be accompanied by an adult as a condition of being allowed to attend.

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

The state's business department accused the Miami venue of several violations, including a prohibition of "lascivious exhibition" before people younger than 16, though it's not clear to what extent this law is generally enforced.

The department said performers were "wearing sexually suggesting clothing and prosthetic female genitalia," as well as simulating masturbation.

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

Amir Blattner, the general manager for Hyatt Regency Miami, told Insider that the hotel's liquor license was still in effect and said that the hotel was reviewing the complaint. A third-party operator manages the Knight Center's programming and ticketing while the hotel provides food and beverages concessions, Blattner said.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is widely considered to be mounting a presidential campaign in 2024, supported the license revocation.

"Sexually explicit content is not appropriate to display to children and doing so violates Florida law," Bryan Griffin, DeSantis' press secretary, told Insider. "Governor DeSantis stands up for the innocence of children in the classroom and throughout Florida."

Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights organization, said that DeSantis was "selectively weaponizing" state agencies against businesses to target drag performances, saying such decisions should be left to parents.

"How far will he take this anti-LGBTQ 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?" asked Brandon Wolf, a spokesman for the group.

DeSantis signed a bill into law last year that bans instruction about gender and sexual orientation in classrooms for up to third grade, and contained vague language about how such topics can be taught in higher grades. The legislation — officially known as the Parental Rights in Education Act — was panned by LGBTQ rights groups as a "Don't Say Gay" measure.

Regulators had warned the drag performance organizers to change how they marketed the show before it went live, according to a copy of the letter included in the complaint. The letter accused the marketers of putting on a performance that constitutes "public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct" when minors are present.

The impetus of the letter was a screenshot where tickets were being sold that read "all ages welcome." The department warned the Hyatt Regency Miami not to admit minors to the show, saying that the venue would face penalties and that its alcohol license could be revoked.

According to the complaint, "A Drag Queen Christmas" updated its advertising to say that the show contained "adult content" and was recommended for people 18 and up, unless accompanied by an adult.

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

The Hyatt might not be the only facility to lose its license. In July 2022, the DeSantis administration filed a complaint against a Miami bar that hosted a drag show where minors were present. It filed a similar complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza in February.

Kate Ruane, who directs the US free expression programs at PEN America, a free-speech advocacy group, said drag shows were protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech. She said that the administration's decision to revoke the license was "deeply concerning," warning that other businesses would opt not to hold drag performances due to fear of reprisal.

"A fundamental tenet of the First Amendment is that the government should not punish people simply because it disapproves of the content of their speech," Ruane said. "Yet this decision will harm a business simply because it supported speech the government doesn't like."

Legislation from Republicans in several states, including Florida, has targeted drag performances, with lawmakers saying they want to protect children from sexually explicit material. This year, Tennessee became the first to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces such as parks and schools.

Public libraries across the US began facing backlash from some parents in recent years for hosting events where drag queens read stories to children.

Watch: How Ron DeSantis rose to the top of the GOP

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