West Palm Beach arts community, drag queens protest against Clematis Street permit denial Favorite 


Apr 18 2023


West Palm Beach, florida

Supporters of the LGBTQ+ and arts communities in West Palm Beach are protesting the closure of two popular spots for creatives in the city.

Subculture Group’s permit to operate Artist Alley was revoked earlier this month by the city of West Palm Beach, and now, its special event road closure permit that allows the business to shut down the entire block on weekends will expire after the city denied its renewal application.

Every Friday night, the group, in conjunction with gastropub Hullabaloo, hosts TGID, or Thank God it's Drag, a series of drag queen performances for the public. There are other kinds of live entertainment Saturday and Sunday nights as well.

“There's games out on the street, a lot of families come out during the day and bring their kids. They have a really great time on Saturdays. There's concerts and bands and mediums, even Elvis performs sometimes. So, it's more than just the drag show,” Chris Rhoades, who produces the drag shows on Clematis, said.

Rhoades said two weeks ago, they got notice that the city would not be renewing the permit, citing a list of reasons why they were not in compliance.

Rhoades and Subculture Group owner Rodney Mayo believe the actual reason for the loss of permits is political retaliation.

Earlier this year, Mayor Keith James won a lawsuit against Mayo claiming he was ineligible to run for mayor in the city of West Palm Beach because of his residency and successfully got him kicked off the ballot.

Now, Mayo and others are worried the arts community will ultimately be the ones made to suffer.

“I have not been able to meet with anyone. I keep getting transferred. The heads of all the departments are just saying Our hands are tied. One of them said, ‘You made your bed, now you gotta lie in it.’ So they all know what's going on,” Mayo said.

“It's just a hurtful move for the arts community for downtown West Palm Beach. The 500 block is such a unique and special block for so many reasons, including the drag show, and it would just be a shame to have the traffic start back up again,” Rhoades said.

WPBF 25 News reached out to the city of West Palm Beach for comment. A spokesperson sent us the notice sent to Subculture Group listing the reasons for the denial:

"Thank you for submitting the attached application. The city is no longer permitting six month special event road closures for Clematis Street. The special event permit for road closure on the 500 block of Clematis Street is denied. The denial is based on review of the proposed event application and past events, conditions for permit contained in section 78-156(a), and application criteria contained in section 78-154(a), including but not limited to, the subsections listed below:

"(7) The applicant failed to comply with permit or city code requirements for a prior special event.

"(8) The applicant’s similar prior special event created a burden on traffic, or neighborhood parking issues; or noise issues; or impacted on city services; or resulted in multiple or excessive citizen complaints.

"(18) The use or activity intended by the applicant would present an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the applicant, government employees or the general public.

"(22) The applicant does not comply with the requirements of this article."

Mayo denies all of those claims.

He also said the city has now decided not to renew his lease for the Subculture Coffee building on Clematis Street in September this year.

“I think a lot of things can be solved just sitting down at the table. Right now, it's just a wall of silence with everybody down there. I reached out to some of the commissioners and some of the commissioners have agreed to meet with us. So that's good, but unfortunately with a strong mayor system, commissioners really are telling me with respect, they don't agree with it, but there's nothing really much we can do,” Mayo said.

“So, we're just hoping that the community comes out with a show of force and just shows, you know, how much this means to them and that this petty little vendetta that he has against me because I dare to run against him is crazy. And hopefully, there will be enough people, you know, hopefully, he rattled the hornet's nest, and hopefully, this will be the start of people coming every week to the commission meeting.”

About 40 people addressed Mayor James about the issue at Monday night’s city commission meeting.

But before they spoke, the mayor explained his decision, saying some business owners are against.

“It’s been going on since 2020, and I think it’s time to take a pause,” he said.

Every person who then approached the podium to speak asked the mayor to reconsider.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” one woman said.

“It’s really, really special what we have here,” said another woman.

“The block is known for its celebration of all forms or art and would be a terrible loss to downtown West Palm Beach,” one speaker said.

WPBF 25 News tried to speak Mayor James after the meeting to see if what he had heard changed his mind in any way.

A spokesperson for the city said the mayor did not want to comment.

Posted by jdcnawy on

Staff rating: