Alabama drag show gets shut down on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall amidst Pride celebrations in the country
The show had been going on for weeks as a fundraiser to help set up Montgomery's first gay club and there hadn't been any issues so far
While the rest of the country celebrated Pride with rainbow flags flying high remembering the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, an Alabama drag show was shut down leaving the LGBTQ+ community heartbroken and shocked.
The show had been going on for weeks as a fundraiser to help set up Montgomery's first gay club, Victoria A. Jewelle, a local drag queen who serves as the show's director, told NBC News. "We were trying to raise money for a new establishment so we can have a place to feel safe," she said.
The show was being hosted at a restaurant called Touch of Soul, where authorities reportedly arrived at 10.45 pm on Saturday, June 29. There had been no protest from authorities so far. However, the officials allegedly barged into the performer's dressing rooms, showed flashlights on their faces and allegedly went through their computers. They ordered the restaurant to close and gave everyone inside 60 minutes to vacate the premises.
It was assisted in this effort by the Montgomery Police Department and the Montgomery Fire and Rescue among other agencies, the publication reported.
In a second incident that occurred on the same night at Club Reset (earlier called Envi Ultra Lounge), authorities showed up and asked guests to "pour out their drinks" and leave immediately. When the guests went over to another club, Club Ciroc, authorities are said to have tailed them there. A representative with Club Ciroc confirmed to the news outlet that authorities did show up a second time at 2.30 am, however, was unable to confirm if the guests had been followed from Club Reset to Ciroc.
T’Chelle Monroe, a party promoter said that the incidents made him feel like they were being targeted. "It made me feel like they’re targeting us. We already have enough to deal with being gay, but we're here trying to celebrate each other on our weekend. They were tarnishing what we were trying to do. We’re just trying to have a good time among each other," he said.
Montgomery officials, however, have denied any wrongdoing. Their report claims that they did not ask anyone to shut it down. "Upon entering the location, we found there was no food in the kitchen, no-cook on duty," the report by the news outlet stated. "A restaurant license is issued for this location and that is described as habitually and principally used for the purpose of preparing and serving meals for the public to consume on-premise. Speaking only for the ABC Board, we did not instruct anyone at this business to shut down."
Restaurant owner of A Touch of Soul, Geri Moss, slammed many of these claims. "I was told that I could stay open until 2 am on Saturday," she said adding that the hours were never mentioned as a problem. She also said that the cook was present. "My kitchen is never closed unless the cafe's closed, and there is always a cook," she said. "If I’m not there, there's a cook." The statement has been confirmed by other people present as well.
She said that they would continue their fundraising and holding drag shows at the premises. "If they got to shut me down, then they're going to have to come with something not bogus and not made up," she said.
Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finely apologized for what he called poor timing of what was a pre-planned, state ABC Board inspection detail of the clubs and bars located around the restaurant.