Bars and restaurants hosting drag shows could be facing thousands in unpaid taxes, according to statutes already on the books.
In June, the Dallas gay bar Mr. Misster was put in the spotlight after hosting a “Drag the Kids to Pride” event, in which scantily clad men dressed as women danced provocatively in front of young children, with the children gave dollar bills to the dancers while a neon sign reading “It’s not gonna lick itself!” flashed in the background.
The scene looked less like a traditional Sunday family event and more like a strip club—only instead of being age-restricted, young children were encouraged to attend.
Now citizens are looking at Texas laws and asking why the fees imposed on strip clubs are not being collected from Mr. Misster and other bars and restaurants that put on similar events.
Chapter 102 of the Texas Business Code regulates “sexually oriented businesses,” which are defined as nightclubs, bars, or restaurants that provide live nude performances for audiences of two or more and serve alcohol.
Such businesses are legally prohibited from allowing individuals under the age of 18 from entering the premises. Additionally, the establishment must register with and remit a tax of five dollars per customer to the Texas comptroller.
But does the drag strip show hosted for children at Mr. Misster constitute a “nude performance?”
“Nude,” as defined in the Business Code, does not only refer to being entirely unclothed. It also applies to performers who are “clothed in a manner that leaves uncovered or visible through less than full opaque clothing … any portion of the genitals or buttocks.”
Images circulating from this performance clearly show some performers displaying their buttocks to the audience. And, as a bar, Mr. Misster has a liquor license and sells alcohol.
Austin attorney Tony McDonald says this statute applies to bars and restaurants that put on drag shows.
“If some guy is waving his butt at your eggs benedict, that restaurant is supposed to pay five dollars per patron,” said McDonald. “The comptroller needs to send these folks a bill.”
Chris Hopper, the president of the Texas Family Project, agreed.
“Any good parent knows that a drag show is no place for a child and that any bar or restaurant that holds an event of this type must be held accountable to the law,” said Hopper.
“The family is under attack, and we are eager to see Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar step up and fight to protect our values in Texas.”
The comptroller’s website states: “If you host even one event that meets the definition of a sexually oriented business, you are responsible for the fee based upon attendance during the specific event.”
In addition to prohibiting children from being on the premises, Chapter 102 also prohibits sex offenders from operating sexually oriented businesses. The statute empowers the attorney general to seek injunctive relief.
Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office declined to comment.