Drag show restaurant Hamburger Mary’s sues Florida, claiming law hurting business

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently adult entertainment signed bill into law

ORLANDO, Fla. – A bill Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law involving adult entertainment and children, including drag shows, is already having a detrimental effect on at least one Orlando business and it is suing to stop the bill.

Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando, famous for its burgers and drag shows, is suing the state of Florida and DeSantis in federal court, claiming the bill is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The law in question, SB 1438, Protection of Children, penalizes venues that allow children to an “adult live performance” by suspending or revoking their business licenses.

The restaurant in downtown Orlando said it used to host a family-friendly drag brunch on Sundays.

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The owners of the restaurant claim the state’s law is too vague and broad to satisfy the requirements of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that it has a chilling effect on protected speech.

“The language used in the statute is meant to be and is primarily vague and indistinct. It does not mention “drag” by name but it is so broad as to include this art form in the state’s interpretation under the newly created or amended laws in question,” the lawsuit said.

Hamburger Mary’s owners said once they told customers that children would no longer be permitted at any of its drag shows, bookings in May fell 20%.

Attorney Gary Israel said that drag venues like Hamburger Mary’s are worried about operating within the scope of the law due to the demands of recent legislation like SB 1438, which restricts children from sexually explicit drag performances.

“That’s what happens when the government makes people and businesses too scared to do legal things because of the potential consequences,” Israel said. “Luckily, we have courts in this country, and the federal courts are bound to uphold the U.S. Constitution.”

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to block the implementation of the law.

SB 1438 and the state’s crackdown on children at drag shows has already led to the cancellation of some Pride events in Florida, including the one in St. Cloud.

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About the Authors:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.

Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.