ORLANDO, Fla. — The owner of Orlando’s Hamburger Mary’s says the restaurant is planning a fundraiser for this year’s Pride parade. Owner John Paonessa says he’s been told funding this year has been down, and he believes it’s because of the changing political climate.

What You Need To Know

  • Hamburger Mary's owner John Paonessa has been outspoken about recent changes, specifically after filing a lawsuit over the Protection of Children Act

  • In a showing of support for the Come Out With Pride Parade, Hamburger Mary's is hosting a drag bingo fundraiser on Tuesday, September 12th at 6:30 p.m.

  • While a representative with Come Out With Pride did not explain why funding for the event might be down, they did say the situation is "complicated"

Paonessa is gearing up for a big event, but it’s one he wishes wasn’t necessary.

“Sponsors are either pulling back or not donating this year because of fear of retaliation, like things that we’ve seen with Bud Light and Target,” he said. “People are boycotting their product, and they’re losing money. It’s a sad situation, but you have to understand — it’s a business as well.”

This would not be the first time a LGBTQ+ organization has faced declining donations. In June, organizers with Gay Days said several company sponsors pulled out of the event, including one that had been a sponsor for over 10 years.

A representative with Come Out With Pride did not respond to Spectrum News 13’s requests for an interview. When asked about the funding for the parade, they said the situation was “complicated.”

Paonessa has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ issues in Orlando and across the state. This year, he filed a lawsuit over the Protection of Children Act, which bars children from live adult performances. Opponents say this would impact drag shows. Since then, a judge has placed a temporary block on the act, preventing its enforcement in Florida.

“Our LGBTQ+ community are still fighting for equal rights, for protection, for allowing us to live the life that we want to live,” he said.

Paonessa hopes those who are able to help will consider donating to efforts for the parade.

“200,000 people last year went to the Pride parade,” said Paonessa. “If everybody gave one dollar, one dollar each would be enough from everybody who went last year to do what we need to do for this parade.”