DeSantis tries to revoke Orlando Philharmonic's liquor license over drag show

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation alleging that the nonprofit group held a sexually explicit drag show in December in the presence of minors.

The complaint, filed Friday through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and shared with NBC News, alleges the foundation violated Florida statutes on lewdness and maintaining a public nuisance and seeks to revoke its liquor license.

The complaint is at least the second that DeSantis’ administration has filed against a venue for hosting a drag performance in the presence of minors. In July, his administration filed a similar complaint against Miami restaurant R House, citing a 1947 state Supreme Court case that found “men impersonating women” in the context of “suggestive and indecent” performances constitutes a public nuisance.

The administration cited the same decades-old case in its complaint against the foundation and argued that it is “operating and maintaining a nuisance” that injures “the health of the citizens in general” or corrupts “the public morals.”

DeSantis’ administration announced Dec. 27, the day before the foundation’s show, that it was investigating the performance after receiving “multiple complaints,” according to Bryan Griffin, the governor's press secretary.

The administrative complaint says the foundation — which owns and operates The Plaza Live theater and supports the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra — advertised “A Drag Queen Christmas,” a performance being held at the theater, as holiday-themed and welcoming of all ages.

The Plaza Live theater (Google)
The Plaza Live theater (Google)

The department said in its complaint that it sent a letter to the foundation prior to the show and notified it that “sexually explicit drag show performances constitute public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct when minors are in attendance” and, if the foundation didn’t prohibit minors from the show, The Plaza Live could lose its liquor license.

Despite the warning, the complaint says, the foundation allowed minors to attend and posted a sign outside the entrance that read: “While we are not restricting access to anyone under 18 please be advised some may think the content is not appropriate for under 18.”

According to the complaint, the show featured “acts of sexual conduct,” simulated sexual activity and “lewd” displays, including performers intentionally exposing prosthetic female breasts and prosthetic genitalia to the audience. The show also included “sexualized adaptations” of popular Christmas songs, such as “Screwdolph the Red-Nippled Reindeer,” the complaint alleges.

The complaint claims that the foundation violated six Florida statutes by allowing minors to attend the show.

The Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation did not immediately return a request for comment, but its board of directors told the Orlando Sentinel that The Plaza Live has hosted drag performances for eight years, and added that the venue is a “welcoming and inclusive establishment that operates in good faith and compliance with all applicable laws.”

“That includes respecting the rights of parents to decide what content is or is not appropriate for their own children,” the statement said, according to the Sentinel. “We have just been made aware of this administrative complaint and are working with our legal team to evaluate and respond appropriately.”

DeSantis’ complaint against the foundation is part of an escalating campaign against drag shows. In June, for example, former state House Rep. Anthony Sabatini called on the governor to hold an emergency special legislative session to consider legislation that would make it a crime for parents to bring their children to drag shows. That same month, when asked by a reporter whether he would support such legislation, DeSantis noted that the state has child protective statutes “on the books.”

“We have laws against child endangerment,” he said. “It used to be kids would be off-limits. Used to be everybody agreed with that. Now it just seems like there’s a concerted effort to be exposing kids more and more to things that are not age appropriate.”

The governor’s efforts are part of a nationwide backlash against drag and LGBTQ rights more broadly. Nationwide, state lawmakers have introduced at least 200 bills targeting LGBTQ people, according to an NBC News analysis.

At least 13 states have considered bills that would redefine any venue that hosts drag performances as an adult-oriented business or cabaret; some of the bills, including two in West Virginia, would also make it a crime for a person who is dressed as a sex different than the one they were assigned at birth to perform at all in front of minors.

This article was originally published on