From trivia nights and live music to vinyl listening sessions and Super Bowl watch parties, Jacob Sloan has always been looking for ways to bring new faces into his Lemmon Avenue business, On Rotation Brewery & Kitchen. But one recently planned event left Sloan, his business, and his employees facing a deluge of threats and harassment.
Last June, On Rotation hosted a drag brunch to commemorate Pride Month. The show was a success, and Sloan decided to make it a monthly event, where guests could drink mimosas and eat fried chicken while watching a drag show.
According to MSN, The event, called Misfits and Mimosas, went on without much controversy for nearly nine months. But days before the brewery’s scheduled March show, Sloan started noticing one-star Yelp reviews for his business. Then phone calls and social media comments began pouring in, accusing Sloan of exposing children to sexual content.
“Do I have to call y’all or come over there??!!” one person tweeted. “I will! On the hour every hour if you don’t stop cooperating with child groomers.”
Sloan found himself the latest victim of a scorched-earth campaign against drag and the venues that host the performances. For months, restaurants and breweries across Dallas-Fort Worth have been in the epicenter of a growing nationwide movement to restrict access to drag shows or ban the public performance of the art altogether.
Events in Plano, Roanoke, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Dallas and Fort Worth have been picketed or subject to online harassment campaigns. Drag performers have faced some of the worst harassment and threats.
The vitriol confused Sloan, who doesn’t remember the last time he actually saw a child at a drag show hosted by his brewery. Most people who attended were adults participating in birthday or bachelorette parties, he said.
While promotional materials for the show did not include an age limit, they also didn’t indicate the show was meant for children — unlike other venues that have promoted some drag performances as being family or kid friendly.
Sloan owns a brew pub. The name of the show has the word “mimosa” in it. It’s clear, he said, that children weren’t his target audience. That didn’t stop a pair of anti-LGBTQ+ groups, the Texas Family Project and Defend Our Kids Texas, from encouraging their followers to harass On Rotation.
In one email sent to supporters, Defend Our Kids Texas executive director Sara Gonzales described the event as a “hyper-sexual drag show targeting children.” Gonzales encouraged her supporters to “speak out” and included On Rotation’s phone number, Facebook and Yelp page.
“I think the mischaracterization of this show being like, ‘bring your kids’ was frustrating because we weren’t really doing anything like that,” Sloan said. “There’s people calling us groomers. There’s people saying we’re demons.”
Reached by email, Gonzales declined to answer a series of questions, saying she doesn’t “engage with fake news and hack reporters lying to promote agendas.” She shared the same sentiment in a tweet she posted after being contacted by The Dallas Morning News.