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Maryland bars are being forced to cancel drag shows or potentially lose their liquor licenses

Maryland bars are being forced to cancel drag shows or potentially lose their liquor licenses
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Several bars and restaurants in Harford County, Maryland have cancelled upcoming drag shows, claiming the local liquor board has intimidated them by insinuating they could lose their liquor licenses if they don’t.

“I had to cancel, otherwise I could lose my liquor license. My liquor license is more worth it,” Renato Buontempo, owner of the restaurant Main Street Tower told the Baltimore Sun. “They say to me, ‘It’s up to you,’ then they say look at this [board rule] of things I’m not allowed to do. They left me no other choice.”

At issue are the local laws governing “adult entertainment” in places that serve alcohol. Officials from the Harford County Liquor Control Board say they didn’t tell the venues to shut down the shows, they merely reminded them about the regulations surrounding “sexual displays” and warned them of the consequences.

“At a drag show, or any other live entertainment event, simulated sex acts and/or other behavior or attire that are prohibited by [board rules] could occur,” board administrator Pilar Gracia said.

She cited a rule that prohibits fondling of breasts or buttocks, wearing clothing that exposes or simulates breasts, or simulating sex acts. Since drag shows are frequently bawdy affairs with plenty of sexual jokes and fake boobs, the meaning was clear.

“If they don’t violate these things [in the board rules], the board doesn’t need to be involved,” board chairman Sheryl Davis Kohl told the Sun. “We’re not telling them they can’t do anything, we’re making them aware of what the law says.”

The newspaper described the convoluted regulation that could somehow turn a drag queen into an “adult entertainer” at the whim of an anti-gay inspector.

According to the board rule, an individual may not serve alcohol while being unclothed or in “attire, costume or clothing so as to expose to view any portion of the female breast” below the top of the areola or any portion of a person’s lower private areas.

No one may “caress or fondle” certain body parts, including breasts and buttocks or use a device or covering that simulates certain body parts.

Entertainment that is prohibited includes performing an act of or that simulates, sexual intercourse or any number of other acts, caressing or fondling certain parts of the body, displaying certain parts of the body or allowing an entertainer “whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to perform closer than 6 feet from the nearest patron.”

With few exceptions, according to the board rule, “the board shall revoke a license if, after hearing before the board, an activity listed in this section is found to have occurred on the license premises.”

The paper points out one business that will continue to host a drag brunch by using a loophole to avoid the restrictive local regulations.

MacGregor’s in Havre de Grace has two licenses it uses for catering. One is from the local board and the other is a less restrictive state license. They will host the drag brunch under the state license.

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