Clematis Street drag show comes to an end after 3 years in West Palm Beach

Permit to shut down street not renewed by Mayor Keith James
Posted at 3:14 AM, Apr 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-29 03:14:04-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A three-year tradition came to an end Friday night as Subculture Group hosted its final drag show on the 500 block of Clematis Street.

"We've had so many memories and a lot of people have shared in those, so it's going to be sad to see it gone," Chris Rhoades, who produces the drag shows, said.

Rhoades said the idea began as a way to support local businesses and entertainers during the pandemic.

"We started inside the restaurant on a small platform stage in the front door, and it grew and decided to build the stage outside, and here we now," Rhoades said. "I know it means a lot to myself, but it means more to other people, and it's sad that we're not going to be able to provide that to the community."

This comes as a permit to shut down the 500 block of Clematis Street expires this weekend. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James chose not to renew the permit, citing traffic.

Organizers said this isn't only a loss for the LGBTQ+ community, but for a number of artists and vendors that rely on the regular exposure the 500 block provides.

"Small businesses are very hurt by this right now," Dorothee Kumpe, one of the vendors representing the nonprofit Transpire Help, said. "This is where you eat. This is where all the locals come to. This is what we need for our economy right now."

Despite a rain scare Friday, the show went on.

Organizers estimated that 400 people attended to show their support.

"I mean, it's the last dance, but I got on a bus to go to Tallahassee with thousands of drag queens all over the state," Rhoades said. "I think that's just a statement in itself that we've fought before and we'll fight again, so I'm staying hopeful."

Organizers said where one door closes, another one opens, and to stay tuned as plans to move the show are in the works.