Drag debate has OBX restaurant fighting to stay open

NAGS HEAD, N.C. (WAVY) — A debate over drag has a restaurant in the Outer Banks fighting to stay open.

“I fear that I’m going to come into work one day and myself and my 40 employees and my 40 local entertainers are going to have a padlock on the door,” said Robert Privott.

Robert Privott and his partner Debra Halahurich opened J. J. Brewbaker’s on Croatan Highway within the last two weeks. They host a variety of local performers daily, and on Sundays, they’ve launched a drag show titled “Eggs, Bacon and Divas.”

“It was a wonderful crowd … I spoke to people afterwards that stayed ’til the end of the show, they told me how much they loved the show,” said Martin Lennon, who hosts the show in costume as “Naomi Black.”

One day after the July 24 performance, Privott and Halahurich received a “notice of default” from the Rosemyr Corporation, which is leasing the property.

The notice reads, in part: “We indicated to you in our letter dated June 22 that an event including male and/or female impersonators would be in violation of your lease.” The notice further states that the lessees had indicated they would not “have such an event,” but Privott told 10 On Your Side they made no such indication about drag shows.

Privott and Halahurich signed the lease in May, which states the property is only meant for “a family-style restaurant with some entertainment.” Another page lists “adult entertainment” among the restricted types.

But Privott argues that the drag show is family-friendly.

“It’s theatrical arts and that’s all it is,” he said.

“I haven’t done any lewd or sexual acts on a brunch stage,” Lennon added. “So I don’t see where you would have a problem with the show.”

A video posted online of the first “Eggs, Bacon and Divas” performance shows Naomi Black dancing before a cheering audience. At least one family with a young child can be seen.

10 On Your Side asked nearby tourists how they would qualify a drag show. Opinions were mixed.

“I don’t think it’s ‘family-fun,'” one man said. “I think that it’s adult entertainment.”

“Adult entertainment definitely means pasties and all that stuff… It’s not necessarily drag shows,” another tourist said.

No one who spoke with 10 On Your Side felt that the show shouldn’t go on.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” one woman said.

“We’ve had a ton of community support,” Privott said.

Privott is no stranger to the Outer Banks Mall, where J.J. Brewbaker’s is located. Just across the strip mall is his co-op, Absolutely Outer Banks. The shop offers local arts and crafts. He opened the nearby restaurant in hopes of providing extra space for performance arts.

“There’s a ton of local artists on the Outer Banks looking for a venue to get exposure and we have an open stage every day,” he said. “There’s 21 different acts a week and just because one of them happens to be drag queens certainly doesn’t mean we’re a drag bar.”

Privott said customers are notified at the door about the drag show.

“We tell them coming in the door, ‘It’s our drag brunch Sunday.’ Most of the time they say, ‘We know, that’s why we’re here!'”

10 On Your Side made numerous attempts to reach Rosemyr Corporation’s Vice President of Leasing and Property Management on Thursday. At the time this article was published, messages had not been returned.

Privott isn’t quite sure what’s going to happen next. He doesn’t plan to cancel the drag brunch performances.

“I’m going to stick fast to my concept and it’s not gonna change,” he said. “I’m not gonna tell one entertainment that their expression is wrong.”

A spokesperson for the town of Nags Head told 10 On Your Side that the restaurant is in compliance with town ordinances.