Portland City Council Looks To Ban Drag Shows

PORTLAND, Tenn., - A Sumner County city council has tried to outlaw drag shows by changing a city code, but some LGBTQ community members have already planned to rally against the proposal.

On September 5, Portland city council members passed a proposed ordinance on first reading attempting to prohibit drag shows by amending the definition of 'Adult Cabaret."

"We received several phone calls from concerned citizens about wanting this in our community or not wanting this in our community," Mayor Kenneth Wilber said.

Envy Bar & Grill held a show on August 12. The show was put on by Elite Performances. 

Wilber said after the local bar and restaurant hosted the drag show his office received backlash.

The change in definition to Adult Caberet states "activities in commercial establishments which feature adult entertainment that may be erotic nature; including exotic dancers, table dancers, private dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers." 

Co-owner of Elite Performances Raymond Guillermo, who performs as Jessica Monroe, said he was surprised to hear about the proposal. 

"We were just in shock, it was very shocking. I didn't think just wanting to put on a drag show would cause such a big deal out in a small town. The reason why we went to Portland is because we had people from the city saying 'hey you guys are from Portland when are you guys going to bring the show to us'" Guillermo said.

Portland's City Planner Andrew Pieri said adult orientated businesses which are included in the city's zoning ordinance still can occur but in the city's industrial zoned districts and not commercial districts. 

"We support that right to free speech and freedom of expression. It just has to regulate to the proper zoning district," Pieri said. 

But Guillermo disagreed. 

"According to the ordinance that I looked at there would be no possible way to perform in Portland. There are churches, schools, residential areas everywhere. This is just their way of getting us out of Portland," he said.

If the council passes the ordinance Monday night, it would prohibit drags shows to be performed in downtown Portland.

Local LGBTQ leaders said the proposal violates the performers' First Amendment rights.

"Tennessee Equality Project joins local citizens in opposing the ordinance because of likely First Amendment violations and because government has no business passing measures that are gender restrictive. The ordinance sends a chilling messages to Middle Tennessee's LGBTQ community," Executive Director Tennessee Equality Project Chris Sanders said.

The council will take up the second reading on September 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Portland City Hall.

Members of Elite Performances plan to attend and voice their concerns in front of the city council.

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