The City of Portland Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to defer a vote to amend the city's ordinance regarding adult oriented businesses at the Sept. 18 meeting.
Two drag shows, which have been described as adult cabaret-style, have been held at Envy Restaurant Bar and Grill located on Main Street by Elite Productions in a private dining room of the restaurant. Opposition to these performances being held in the downtown business district caused city officials to look at the existing adult entertainment ordinance, which had been on the books since 1997.
On Sept 5, the BOMA approved on first reading a revised ordinance which would bring Portland in line with the state of Tennessee's statute, revised in 2006, which allows businesses that feature adult entertainment only in areas zoned industrial.
City Attorney David Amonette asked the council to defer to give him time to study recent documents he had received concerning the threat of possible lawsuits, if the ordinance was amended.
After discussion, the BOMA voted to send a copy of the revised ordinance to the Tennessee Attorney General for an opinion. Alderman David Andrews amended the motion to add that the council not wait longer than Nov. 6 for that opinion. Aldermen Mike Callis and Drew Jennings voted no on the amendment and on the vote to defer.
Recently, city officials received a letter from The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee asking that the city drop the proposed ordinance. The letter stated that it was sent on the behalf of Elite Productions.
A letter dated Sept. 18 from attorney Kevin Teets on behalf of the Tennessee Equality Project and on behalf of those who have performed or plan to perform in drag in the city was also received by city officials. The letter, addressed to Amonette, stated it was a notice of intent to file suit against the city of Portland and to request an injunction, if the legislative body passes the ordinance.
Residents rally on both sides
A rally opposing the passing of the ordinance was held across the street from Portland City Hall. Another group supporting the ordinance gathered on the lawn of city hall. A traveling preacher stood on the corner preaching "the sin of homosexuality." Timothy Brown's voice was projected through a large bullhorn style speaker sitting on the sidewalk. A large group took a calmer approach by forming a large prayer circle.
During the meeting, Mayor Ken Wilber gave everyone who wished to speak to the ordnance the opportunity to address the BOMA. Many spoke for and against the ordinance. The standing room audience showed respect to each speaker, and there were no disruptions during the meeting by either side. Each person was allowed to express his/her viewpoint,
After the meeting, part-owner of Elite Productions Raymond Guillermo of Gallatin said, "I don't find it fair. They've had plenty of time to write their ordinance, and to get their ducks in a row. They've had plenty of time since the first time, Sept. 5th. I think it's just their way of prolonging it and preventing us from coming out."
According to Guillermo's business Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/EliteproductonsTN/, which refers to the business as Elite Drag Star Productions, he refers to his shows as adult-only productions.
In an earlier post, the business writes, "We are ready for some warm weather! Join us as we Spring into Drag at Swaney Swifts. This show is NOT a kid friendly show and you MUST be 18+ to enter."
The site also states the next performance in Portland - Fall Ball - is this Saturday, Sept. 30 at 9:30 p.m. at Envy Bar.
Owner Vee Truong said next day after the rally, "It was just a rally not a protest - just people speaking their voice. Part of me wanted to talk and part of me didn't because I couldn't change their minds. I didn't intentionally do anything. It's just business.
"Preacher say stuff very ugly. By teaching other people to believe in God, don't condemn. Don't use mean words. Can't teach in violent words."
According to Truong, he signed to do three shows. No decision has been made on the possibility of more shows after these.