Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is going to bat against a Miami bar hosting “sexually explicit” drag shows geared toward children.
The conservative governor — a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 — instructed his state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation this week to look into the R House venue, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. The agency filed a complaint against the bar Tuesday.
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Concerns about the restaurant began swirling after the popular account Libs of TikTok tweeted disturbing video footage of a young girl walking hand-in-hand with a provocatively dressed drag queen in high heels and dollar bills protruding from the lining of the thong the performer was wearing.
“Having kids involved in this is wrong,” DeSantis said during a press conference Wednesday. “That is not consistent with our law and policy in the state of Florida. And it is a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people. That is not the way you look out for our children.”
“You protect children,” he continued. “You do not expose them to things that are inappropriate.”
DeSantis explained that DBPR agents found that, in addition to minors being present for some “sexually explicit drag shows,” the bar “actually had a children’s menu.”
“You think to yourself, ‘Give me a break. What’s going on?'” the governor said. “So they looked under Florida law and were able to initiate this procedure that would basically take away the liquor license [for the bar].”
Given R House is a bar, losing its liquor license would effectively put it out of business. The venue has 21 days from Tuesday to respond to the state agency’s complaint.
The owners of the bar said in a statement issued through a public relations firm that the state’s actions are based on “a misunderstanding,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“We are aware of the complaint and are currently working with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, through our attorney, to rectify the situation,” read the statement. “We are hopeful that Gov. 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.”
A father himself, DeSantis said he is “sensitive” to this issue.
“Being a parent is the most important thing we do,” the governor said of himself and his wife, Casey. “It’s also very challenging enough as it is. And so I think parents, particularly this time in society’s history, should be able to have their kids go to kindergarten, watch cartoons, just be kids, without having some agenda shoved down their throats all the time.”
DeSantis added people are entitled to have “different views about what they want to do as adults,” further stating, “But it used to be, the kids are off limits; no one wanted to bring the kids into any of this stuff. And we’ve got to get back to that. And I can tell you, in Florida, we are going to make sure that that happens.”
The governor is not the only politician in Florida addressing this issue.
Last month, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R) announced his intention to present legislation barring parents from taking their children to drag shows and penalizing them if they do so, WPBF-TV reported.
“It’s a bill that would make it illegal for an adult to force a child into a drag sex show,” he said in June. “It’s just not the place for kids; it should not be allowed so it would criminalize that.”
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