Windows were covered with thick black paper, a sign hung on the door stating “18+ Only” and a host stood guard outside.
This was the scene at Lilo’s Street Food and Bar in Lake Worth Beach last Saturday as the Imperial Sun Court of All Florida held its regular drag brunch fundraiser.
The drastic measures were all in response to the new bills signed into law last week by Governor Ron DeSantis.
The Imperial Sun Court of All Florida (ISCOAF) is a charity that raises money for other nonprofits through drag performances. Despite the changes and challenges, the show this weekend raised over $1,100.
It took the passion of many dedicated planners, performers and allies to make sure it went off without a hitch.
Previously, the show at Lilo’s was performed outside in the outdoor seating area. It was visible to all who walked down the streets, or sat at other restaurants enjoying their brunch.
The show would, at some points, literally stop traffic as performers danced in the streets, or drivers lingered to watch after the light turned green. Families would come with their children, and it wasn’t uncommon to see the kids showered with praise from the queens and even offered some accessories.
Eric Lipson, Reigning Emperor of ISCOAF, said “I was honored, along with my Empress Leila Cox, to continue our charity drag performance at Lilo’s knowing we are in uncharted territory with the new Florida performance law. We are grateful for our allies, especially Lilo’s, who support us as we continue on our mission of good deeds raising money for community charities. The court supports the ACLU Drag Defense to keep the message forward that drag is not illegal. Our next drag show at Lilo’s will be June 24 at noon.”
The planning of the show was fraught with challenges. Some performers did not feel safe performing without clear guidance on what could and could not be considered illegal. Lilo’s pulled out all the stops to ensure that the performers and guests felt safe and protected, having a long and prosperous relationship with ISCOAF and its fundraisers.
Despite all the challenges, the show went on. Nevertheless, the queens persisted. Currently there are lawsuits attempting to nullify or at least suspend some of the laws that were enacted last week.
The community is determined to do what it has always done - resist.
And, of course, raise money for charity.