Organizers of drag events in Harford County are hopeful that shows will be scheduled again at local establishments, once assurances are made the venues won’t be targeted by the county’s liquor board.
“We’re very hopeful we have come to some type of resolution with the board,” said Irina Brusilovsky, whose company was scheduled to put on some of the canceled drag events. “And hopefully some additional things they will be doing to assuage the venues that there won’t be repercussions, the board won’t be targeting the venues. The hope is the venues will choose to have events again.”
The Harford County Liquor Control Board and the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce issued a joint statement Tuesday in response to a public outcry that the liquor board forced the cancellation of drag events because they may have violated board rule 4-23, which regulates nudity and sexual displays.
“Really, it was a miscommunication between the board and the licensees,” said Tom Koerber, president of the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “There was never any intention to single out venues with drag performances. They were making all establishments aware of Rule 4-23 on the books. And that if there was an infraction, the board has zero wiggle room on repercussions. They were making establishments aware that was the case.”
The chamber facilitated conversations between at least one venue — the Jarrettsville VFW — and a promoting company — Brusilovsky’s Simply Sinful events, Koerber said.
Once the board explained its position and all the parties were brought together, he said, the parties involved didn’t feel like anyone was being targeted.
A true testament will be if and when drag events are scheduled again in Harford County, Koerber said.
“We do feel like it is resolved and we look forward to having those events,” he said.
Brusilovsky said there was a big difference between the members of the liquor board and the tone and tenor the venue operators felt liquor inspector William Colburn took.
“So, I think we’ve hopefully come to some type of understanding and resolution with the board,” she said. “That is our hope, we’ve been led to believe that is what’s going to happen.”
Colburn declined to comment when reached by phone Wednesday.
In its statement, provided by Chair Sheryl Davis Kohl, the liquor board said it met with chamber representatives, local vendors and license holders.
“During recent meetings and conversations, the board has affirmed that while part of their role is to enforce the state laws as well as their own local board rules, the board’s practice is not, and has never been, to target any vendor providing entertainment nor any specific licensed establishment in the county,” the statement said.
Events can be held at licensed establishments as long as the comply with state and local laws and rules, and vendors are expected to “manage their businesses in a responsible manner that will allow for both the success of their businesses as well as the success of the liquor licensed establishments,” according to the statement.
“The board is committed to continue improving relationships among business vendors, licensed establishments and community members. The board will continue to work with all parties to support Harford County business owners,” the statement continues.
“The board desires nothing but success for its licensed establishments and hopes that bar and restaurant owners in Harford County can find a way to utilize outside entertainment while also abiding by the liquor board rules and state laws.”