‘There’s no grooming:’ Hamburger Mary’s owner says law, drag show critics paint false narrative

Orlando restaurant is suing Florida, Gov. DeSantis

ORLANDO, Fla. – Hamburger Mary’s owner John Paonessa said he is hanging a sign in front of his restaurant that reads no children under 18 allowed during drag shows.

Paonessa filed a lawsuit against the state and Governor Ron DeSantis, claiming that the Protection of Children Act is too vague and it’s costing his business customers because they had to ban children from their family-friendly drag shows.

“We obviously had to stop allowing people to bring their children in and the moment we announced that 20% of our bookings went down on Sunday and cancelations and then the following Sunday, so it is taking a hit on the business,” Paonessa said.

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The new bill penalizes venues that allow children to an “adult live performance” by suspending or revoking their business licenses. That’s something Paonessa said they can’t afford to have that happen.

“There’s nothing going on with drag queens that affects any family, children, there’s no nudity at these shows. There’s no grooming. It’s a false narrative that that’s being placed on drag shows,” he said.

State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, sponsored the bill and said he was “disgusted” to learn about the lawsuit and was stunned to learn just how many bookings the restaurant lost because children were not allowed to attend.

“All we want is to keep kids away from adult entertainment and I don’t know why this one group of places is so concerned about it. I’ve never been to Hamburger Mary’s. I don’t know what they do there. If they follow the law, they have nothing to worry about,” Rep. Randy Fine said.

Fine also took to social media and said:

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About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!