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 causing many to be concerned 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 new parent Melissa Carrera Friday.
Carrera said she hasn't yet brought her child to the pedestrian mall as she thinks people have not been following the physical distancing protocols on the streets.
As a business owner, in circumstances such as these, she says attacks on social media can often turn to owners for not placing enough responsibility on public complacency. Questioning this, she wondered who should be responsible for enforcement.
But not everyone is of the same opinion.
With a front-row seat performance from the safe confines of the establishment she was visiting, Stephanie Moyst took in the electric performances of thirteen drag queens.
"It was fantastic. The energy was very high," she said.
A performer herself, Moyst said that events such as this are a much needed mental break from the humdrum of the pandemic. She elaborated that the picture circulated on social media was misleading.
"From my point of view what they didn't see was that about 50% 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.
Blundon did admit that social distancing was not maintained and that neither City of St. John's or the Department of Health were consulted in the planning of the event.
Blundon said he will make sure to contact City Hall the next time they plan an event, chalking up Thursday 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.
The Department of Public Health also reminded people about the importance of following public health guidance related to physical distancing, social gatherings and the requirement to abide by Special Measures Orders.