Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a complaint against R House in Miami after a video showed children at one of the restaurant’s drag brunch events.
DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday that the video, in which a child can be seen walking with a drag performer dressed in lingerie, led to an investigation by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, according to NBC Miami.
“They actually had agents going to this place and effectively just gathering information, getting intelligence, seeing what’s going on,” he said Wednesday. “And what they found was not only were there minors there — and these are sexually explicit drag shows — the bar had a children’s menu. And you think to yourself: ‘Give me a break, what’s going on?”
The department filed an administrative complaint, obtained by NBC News on Tuesday, that accuses the restaurant of disorderly conduct.
It alleges that a “nearly nude dancer was filmed parading a young girl through the audience” on or about July 3 and that the video ignited public outrage.
“The video shows what appears to be a transgender dancer leading a young girl by the hand and walking through Respondent’s dining area,” the complaint states. “The dancer’s buttocks were fully exposed, and his ‘g-string’-style bikini bottom was stuffed with dollar bills — a practice that is commonly known to occur at strip clubs. The dancer’s breasts — unmistakably female in appearance — were also fully exposed except for the nipple and areola, which were covered with adhesive ‘pasties.’”
The complaint alleges that R House has violated state public nuisance law by becoming “manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people.” The department also cites a 1947 Florida Supreme Court decision that found that “men impersonating women” in the context of “suggestive and indecent” performances constitutes a public nuisance.
The restaurant’s ownership said in an emailed statement that it is aware of the complaint and that it is working with the department through its attorney to “rectify the situation.”
“We are an inclusive establishment and welcome all people to visit our restaurant,” it said. “We are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, a vociferous supporter and champion of Florida’s hospitality industry and small businesses, will see this as what it is, a misunderstanding, and that the matter will be resolved positively and promptly.”
If the complaint is successful, the state could revoke the restaurant’s liquor license.
Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, said in a statement that DeSantis has "shown that he is willing to bend state agencies to his will and weaponize them against marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people, in his quest to incite right wing fervor."
He also noted that the headquarters for Hooters, the restaurant chain known for its "Hooters girls," is in Clearwater, Florida, and shared a viral photo of a young boy posing with a Hooters girl.
"Has an investigation begun into parents taking their children to ogle in a restaurant with a name based on a sexualized premise/double entendre?" Wolf said. "What about bikini-clad gun show models? Since DeSantis is replacing a parent’s judgment with his own, we will see how far the Governor’s puritanical purge is going to go or if it is merely selectively enforced."
It isn’t the first time DeSantis has been critical of drag performances. Last month, in response to a question from a reporter about whether he would support state legislation to punish parents who take their children to drag shows, he said he would have his staff look into it.
“We have 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.”
LGBTQ advocates and drag performers have condemned the recent increase in verbal and physical attacks on drag performances and Drag Queen Story Hour events.
Last month, Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton said he would introduce legislation to ban drag shows in the presence of minors in Texas.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Alyssa Edwards responded in a tweet: “My thoughts: 1) Our God is a God of Love. 2) Parents are a child’s 1st & most important teacher/role model. 3) Drag is an art form which is subjective. 4) You, sir, have tweeted more about #drag than the loss at #Uvalde.
“Is this truly about children or politics? #Priorities,” Edwards said, referring to the mass school shooting in Texas in May that left 19 children and two teachers dead.