'Taking a hit on the business': Owners of Hamburger Mary's Orlando restaurant challenging new drag show law

Less than a week after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that some believe targets drag shows, the owner of a popular Orlando restaurant has filed a federal lawsuit against the governor and the State of Florida, claiming the new law is a violation of the First Amendment. 

"The bill that was signed in is so vague that the interpretation is broad that anyone can pull something out and say it’s inappropriate or lewd when it really isn’t," said John Paonessa, owner of Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille in Orlando. "I am the uncle of many, and I would never, ever bring my nieces and nephews or anyone under the age of 18 into a place that had nudity, inappropriateness, lewd behavior, grooming, recruiting, any of that stuff," Paonessa continued.

Hamburger Mary’s on Church Street is known for its drag performances that have been around since 2008 and that the owner calls "family friendly." But as soon as this legislation was signed, the restaurant said it had to tell parents they could no longer bring their children to the performances. 

Paonessa said, "The moment that we announced that 20% of our bookings went down on Sunday, we had cancelations and then the following Sunday, so it is taking a hit on the business."

Paonessa is hoping this lawsuit will put a stop to what he calls a false narrative that is attempting to silence a group of people. 

"If they do deem that we have done something inappropriate and violated the law, they can pull our liquor license, which for a business like this, you might as well close the doors," Paonessa said.

At the time this story aired, FOX 35 had not heard back from the Governor or his office in response to the lawsuit.