From Sara Baker:
Several restaurants have had to cancel their nearly sold-out drag events after visits from Harford County Liquor Board Inspector William Colburn. Mr. Colburn informed the restaurants that while it is illegal to ban the events outright, if they choose not to cancel he will visit them every day and eventually find a reason to take their liquor licenses.
The board is using regulation 4:23 of the county’s liquor board rules and regulations as their grounds for possible revocation of licenses. Regulation 4:23 prohibits nudity or the depiction of, various sex acts or simulated sex acts, and the caressing of various body parts, including breasts or buttocks. If a drag queen is dancing during a performance and grazes a hand over their fake breast, the liquor board would be able to revoke the establishment’s liquor license immediately.
Mr. Colburn has not threatened restaurants with non-drag entertainment with daily harassment in case a woman caresses her actual breasts on a dance floor. The board has said that this is because a patron is not paid entertainment. However, under regulation 4:23, paragraph 3 of section 2 states that an individual may not “Encourage or allow an individual on the licensed premises to caress or fondle the breasts, buttocks, anus, or genitals or another individual,” without specifying that the individual be an employee or entertainment.
Pilar Garcia, the administrator of the board, insists there is no ban on drag events but has repeatedly refused to answer whether or not restaurants can host drag events. Several restaurants have confirmed their experience with Mr. Colburn threatening to revoke liquor licenses if drag events go on as scheduled. Unfortunately, the chances of fighting the liquor board are slim unless a venue is brave enough to host an event despite the inspector’s threats.
Blatant discrimination aside, this move by the liquor board and its inspector is bad for businesses in the county. The demand for drag events is obviously high as so many events occurring within a short time frame were sold out or nearly sold out. There will continue to be demand, but consumers will take those dollars out of Harford to other neighboring counties.
There is a liquor board meeting at 16 North Main Street in Bel Air on Wednesday, May 22, at 3pm. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and show their support for the LGBTQ community, the entertainers, and the restaurants that have been affected.