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Hamburger Mary's sues DeSantis over Florida law targeting 'adult live performances'

“The law and anticipation of it has had a chilling effect upon free speech in Florida," the lawsuit reads.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille in Orlando is taking legal action against Gov. Ron DeSantis over a recently-signed Florida law that affects drag shows.

The nationally-known burger joint filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis on Monday over claims that SB 1438 — the law that restricts kids' attendance at "adult live performances" — violates its First Amendment rights. 

"This bill has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with the continued oppression of the LGBTQ+ community," Hamburger Mary's Orlando wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.

It's the latest in the fallout over a number of controversial laws said to target the LGBTQ+ community that the Florida governor signed last week. 

The new legislation has already led event organizers, including some in Tampa, to cancel Pride celebrations. It has also led civil rights organizations to issue travel advisories for Florida.

The law referred to in the Hamburger Mary's lawsuit says an establishment could face fines or have its liquor license suspended if it allows children into a venue with an adult live performance that depicts or simulates acts that include nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement and lewd conduct.


In the court document, the restaurant explains that its Sunday Brunch drag show is a "wholesome form of art and entertainment" that has entertained families and children for years.

"It's a form of family entertainment, enjoyed by all," the lawsuit reads. “There is no lewd activity, sexually explicit shows, disorderly conduct, public exposure, obscene exhibition or anything inappropriate for a child to see."

And once Hamburger Mary's let its customers know that children could no longer attend the drag shows, the restaurant claims it saw instant repercussions.

“Immediately, 20% of their bookings cancelled for the May 21, 2023 show and for future bookings," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit argues that the Florida law is too vague to enforce, putting businesses at risk of losing their liquor licenses and individuals at risk of prosecution. 

“Seeing a performer in clothing not gender usual, dancing and singing, may be perfect for a two year old to see, but by whose standard is this decision to be made? The reader is only made to guess what conduct is prohibited," it says.

“The law and anticipation of it has had a chilling effect upon free speech in Florida," the lawsuit continues.

10 Tampa Bay has reached out to the governor’s office for a response to the lawsuit but has not heard back.

Since the 1972 opening of its first location in San Francisco, Hamburger Mary's has become a staple of the LGBTQ+ community recognized nationwide. With its food, eclectic decor and quirky charm, it's known as the “open-air bar and grille for open-minded people." 

Tampa Bay was once home to three Hamburger Mary's locations. The last surviving restaurant in Clearwater closed its doors for good in March.

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