Local drag producer and business stop show after armed protest from Proud Boys

The decision comes from a place of safety, according to the show’s producer.

(Palak Jayswal | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tea Zaanti was the host of an all-ages drag show.

An all-ages drag show at Tea Zaanti, a local wine and tea shop, has decided to “step back” according to an Instagram statement from the drag producer, Tara Lipsyncki.

“Safety is, and should be, every business’ and producer’s #1 priority,” the statement reads. The decision comes after Proud Boys, one of them armed, protested outside the all-ages show, “Best-TEAS” last week, which Lipsyncki says took them a few days to process.

The protesters previously told The Tribune they were there because of the children present at the show. They stood outside the show for the three-hour duration, and verbally harassed customers as they walked in and out of the business. They also vowed to return as long as children were present at the shows.

Lipsyncki goes on in the statement to say as a producer, they and the business Tea Zaanti are in agreement in their decision to take a step back. They also told Tribune that Friday’s events made them numb, in disbelief of what was happening. “They had guns and were yelling at children,” Lipsyncki explains.

“It would be absolutely selfish and stupid for me and Tea Zaanti to continue this passion project at the safety and risk of kids,” Lypsyncki said.

This was the first time the all-ages show at the business saw physical presence backlash, though last year, Yelp and other third-party reviews of the business plummeted when Tea Zaanti shared a video of a young girl dancing with drag queens. At the time, the young girl’s father told the Tribune she suffered from anxiety and found an outlet in dance.

In a text message statement, Scott Lyttle, the co-owner of Tea Zaanti said, “It sickens me that our wholesome show has become a political hot button. At the end of the day, the safety and well-being of our staff is the most important thing that we do at the shop.”

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly,” Lyttle went on to say. “It’s also not about “letting the other side win. It’s about safety – promoting an environment that instigates a hate group is not something we want to risk. Our primary goal at Tea Zaanti is to create communi-TEA and promote equality and provide a welcoming space.”

Lipsyncki said they are working to find a more physically secure space to continue the shows safely, as in the warm weather, they performed the show in Tea Zaanti’s outdoor patio space — which would pose more safety issues if protests continued.

They also noted they have Tea Zaanti’s support in this new endeavor, but are unsure if they will return to the physical location of the shop. Lypsyncki says she commends Lyttle for his courage and that the public should know this “has nothing to do with Tea Zaanti’s commitment to the LGBTQIA community at all.”

In fact, because the shop has become a safe space for all, Lipsyncki says that solidified their decision even more.

Lipsyncki added that this protest is an attack on trans people, not drag. “Every time that a drag artist puts drag on now, they’re putting on war paint. It is a battle. It’s ugly and not fair, but at the core of this, it’s an attack on trans people it’s not about the drag.”

A commenter on Lipsyncki’s post asked how pausing the show was not a win for the protesters.

“It is a win for them,” they told the Tribune. “They won this battle,” Lipsyncki said, “But I’ll be damned if they win the war.”

“This is not the end of the show or our mission to support queer youth in any sort of way,” the statement reads. “This is a strategic decision about how to best move forward and win the war against hate.”

Going forward, Lipsyncki says they won’t stop their productions, but will continue them with security and armed guards. Ironically, they said, this was the first show at Tea Zaanti after last year’s blow-up that did not have security present.

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