Nfld. & Labrador

Water Street drag show raises physical distancing concerns at pedestrian mall

An estimated 300 people gathered on Water Street to watch the performance.

Social media photos prompt mixed reviews, organizers say more will be done in the future

Drag performers put on a show on the pedestrian mall Thursday evening that attracted hundreds of people. (Stephanie Moyst)

Water Street was alive with dance, music and drag on Thursday evening, as hundreds of people gathered to witness a group of drag queens perform at the St. John's pedestrian mall.

However, the night took a turn when pictures of the event surfaced on social media, prompting concerns about a lack of physical distancing.

"What concerns me is that we have these government mandates.… What I saw last night [on social media] was the complacency by the general public, but I also saw a lack of police presence," said Melissa Carrera on Friday.

Carrera said she hasn't yet brought her child to the pedestrian mall as she says people have not been following the physical distancing protocols on the streets.

Stephanie Moyst had a front-row seat at a Water Street establishment for what she said was an electric performance by 13 drag queens.

"It was fantastic. The energy was very high," she said.

A performer herself, Moyst said events such as this are a much-needed mental break from the humdrum of the pandemic. She said a picture that circulated on social media was misleading.

"What they didn't see was that about 50 per cent of the audience was actually wearing masks and that these people were consistently moving … and there was quite a bit of social distancing," Moyst said.

Thursday's event was the third of its kind since the pedestrian mall began, but the first to draw much attention and criticism. Drag artist and organizer David Blundon estimated that around 300 people gathered at one point. 

"We weren't trying to break any rules, we weren't trying to go through any loopholes. We wanted to do something for the community," Blundon said.

Drag show organizer David Blundon says more will be done to promote physical distancing at future shows. He says they will also work with City of St. John's. (Submitted by David Blundon)

Blundon did admit physical distancing was not maintained and that neither City of St. John's or the provincial Department of Health were consulted while planning the event.

Blundon said he would contact city hall the next time they plan an event, chalking Thursday up as a learning experience. He added that extra security and more bodies hired to manage the crowd would also be on his list to ensure that future drag events happen in a safe environment for everyone.

Prompted by the show, the city released a statement reminding the public that outdoor events on city property must be approved by the city's special events division and are required to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines set out by the chief medical officer of health.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

now