ROSLYN: You've reached the Love and Luck Podcast.
[Radio Style Music Intro]
CINDY: Hi everyone, it's Cindy here and welcome back to Hot Spot Watch, where we discuss upcoming and currently running events in Melbourne for the LGBTIQA+ community. Tonight I have two guests in the booth with me here, Jason Flint and Kane Baxter, owners of the soon to be opening Best of Luck Bar! Hi fellas!
JASON & KANE: Hi Cindy!
CINDY: So, the Best of Luck Bar is a new bar for queer people that's opening this Saturday! And you guys are in St Kilda, is that right?
KANE: Yes, that's right. We're on 35 Coursington Street, in St Kilda.
CINDY: Now, the thing that really caught my attention about the Best of Luck Bar is that it's a dry venue - you don't serve any alcohol on premises at all! Can you tell me a little bit about your decision to do that?
KANE: Well, it was a difficult decision actually, for a lot of reasons. One of them is that there is a rich history of gay bars being one of the few places where our community could safely come together, for decades. Another is that bar's that don't sell alcohol don't tend to be particularly profitable, and we've had to factor that into our business plan as well.
JASON: It was also a difficult decision because I, personally, really enjoy drinking alcohol.
Joking aside, though, there are some good reasons why we decided to avoid selling alcohol.
KANE: Right. The main thing that triggered the discussion in the first place was that liquor licensing laws are... very complicated, and very expensive. For a very small start up business, you need to be okay with closing fairly early by nightlife standards, since more extensive liquor licences cost a lot more money.
CINDY: Right, and you wanted to be open later than you'd be able to, if you served alcohol?
KANE: Right, we wanted a more flexible range of trading hours than liquor licensing would offer us.
JASON: There's also the fact that alcohol and other substance abuse has a much higher rate in the queer community than in the mainstream straight world. And we want to try and help the queer community shed or avoid self destructive or potentially damaging behaviours, rather than indulge them.
KANE: Which isn't to say that there's no place in our world for alcohol - as previously mentioned, bars and gay culture have an important link between them - just that for us, and for what we want to achieve with Best of Luck Bar, is easier done by avoiding alcohol. We still actively support all the gay bars and clubs around Melbourne and wouldn't want to see them closed or changed.
JASON: Yeah, like I said, I personally love drinking alcohol, and I've spent a lot of money drinking at clubs over the years and plan to continue to do so when I can, so believe me, we're not against alcohol in general.
KANE: No, not at all. Originally we were actually planning to run a more regular bar, partially because Jason just really wanted a reason to turn partying into a job.
JASON: I really did. It's the only career dream I've ever had.
KANE: But we both agreed that we have an opportunity here to create a place where people could naturally congregate, and where we could encourage a certain atmosphere of community and caring for each other, without the barriers that are introduced by alcohol.
We wanted to make this space as accessible and inclusive as possible. By not serving alcohol on premises, we can have people under 18 in our bar, which is good, since queer youth is often shut out of a lot of broader queer community venues as they tend to mostly be clubs and bars. It also makes us a safe place for recovering alcoholics to spend their social time, which is something that is often a genuine struggle in this country, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender.
JASON: It also lets us focus on creating a space that's interesting, and has to have more of a draw to it than alcohol, which is one of the main reasons that people go to bars in the first place.
Generally people go to bars mainly to socialize and have a good time, so we have to try and find ways to show people that we can give them that, even without the alcohol.
CINDY: Right, that's a really good point! So tell me, what sorts of things are you doing to make Best of Luck Bar interesting, without alcohol?
KANE: Well, for the more introverted of us, we have a couple of xboxes with a good library of games set up, as well as some traditional board games and things like that. We've got a little projector that we're going to set up so we can have film events, and we're hoping to be able to run some workshops and art classes and that sort of thing, too.
JASON: And for folks like me who like to be a bit louder and flashier, we've got a small but decent stage so that we can host live music and performances of other types... um, I know one of our friends is keen to start a monthly poetry night, using our venue, for example.
KANE: We're also currently looking into partnering with some sexual health organizations to arrange educational events and on site quick testing, things like that. Oh, and we're in the process of ordering some stock of some cool queer books, comics and magazines, too.
JASON: We'll also be available to hire as a venue, so, y'know, keep us in mind for your birthday parties and things like that, too!
CINDY: That all sounds amazing! I definitely know where I'm looking into for my next birthday party.
So, you don't serve alcohol, but you still call Best of Luck Bar ... well, a bar! What sorts of drinks do you serve?
KANE: We have some pretty fancy mocktail recipes that we're excited about! We also serve all the usual suspects - soft drinks, juices, milkshakes, smoothies, that sort of thing.
JASON: We'll also be doing coffee, of course, because we're not silly enough to try and run a business that involves beverages in Melbourne without knowing how to serve up a decent espresso.
KANE: Right, we definitely do coffee. And we'll have some lovely cakes, pastries and other snack foods to go along with it, too.
JASON: We also have a lot of vegan and gluten free options as well, both in food and drinks.
CINDY: Now, you mentioned trading hours being a factor in your decision to run Best of Luck Bar without alcohol - what kind of hours are you going to be open?
KANE: We're aiming for combined cafe and bar hours. We want to be available for people whenever is best for them, so our trading hours will be 9am till 3am, most days of the week. We'll be taking Mondays off, but other than that, we're open.
KANE: Yeah. Look, it's a long day, but the fact of the matter is - we are making this space for our community - and that space is not particularly useful to anyone if they can't access it whenever is most useful and convenient for them.
CINDY: Do you think it's going to be difficult, maintaining such long hours?
JASON: Fortunately, Kane and my natural sleep schedules overlap in such a way that we'll be able to work these hours without too much of a problem. And it's not like we need to commute far. We've just moved in together and, well, let's just say we're extremely close to the bar.
KANE: It's really nice to get to make this our life now. The chance to not only live together, but to completely direct our lives to working on a place for our community is a very special one. We're not taking this for granted - we want to make sure we do whatever we can with this opportunity.
CINDY: You've mentioned inclusivity being an important part of this bar, so I feel it's important to ask - do you have gender neutral toilets?
KANE: Yes, we absolutely do. In fact we only have gender neutral toilets. We also have a disabled toilet, and the entrance to the bar is a flat, low angle ramp, so we are wheelchair accessible as well.
CINDY: That's something that's overlooked a lot in the community, I feel. Our disabled population are definitely kept out of a lot of queer venues.
KANE: Yeah, it's a real shame, and we are definitely not falling into the same trap. We also refuse to have strobe lights or any other kind of light that flashes quickly, so any people with epilepsy can feel assured that they are welcome in our bar, too.
CINDY: So, for people who are excited to hear about this, and who want to help make Best of Luck Bar a successful social hub for queer people, what can they do to support you?
JASON: Spend money on us!
JASON: No, but really, the best thing you can do is come attend our events, come catch up with your friends over coffee. Every latte drunk is another couple of dollars towards keeping things going, so don't feel like you need to like, donate sums of cash or anything. Places like this only work if people use them, so please, use us!
KANE: You can also support us by suggesting or helping to run events for us. If you've got a cool idea, or a launch, or a party, or anything that might be something cool for our community, we would love to help you make it happen. The more cool stuff we get to do, the more people will come to visit us, and hopefully we all get to make new friends and connections.
JASON: Yep! So basically, the best way to support us is to get involved with us.
CINDY: That's fantastic, and I definitely will be coming along to opening night. And that's this Saturday, am I correct?
KANE: Yep, this Saturday. Our doors open at 5pm, and it's going to be an amazing night. We have live music planned from some local queer bands, circus performers, and some amazing prizes donated to us to raffle off by our amazing community partners - including tickets to some upcoming dance parties, a beautiful steel boned corset from our fashion friends at the FF Show Way, and some books published by local queer writers.
JASON: Also, Kane's making cupcakes. You should totally come by for the cupcakes alone, if nothing else.
CINDY: Well I do have a weakness for a good cupcake!!
Unfortunately, we've run out of time, but you can check out Best of Luck Bar online, or just come along and check it out in person. Thank you so much to my wonderful guests, Kane and Jason--
KANE: Thank you.
JASON: Thanks for having us!
CINDY: And I'll be back next week with more community event news. Thanks for listening, folks!
ROSLYN: Love and Luck is written by Erin Kyan, and produced by Passer Vulpes Productions. Kane is voiced by Lee Davis-Thalbourne. Jason is voiced by Erin Kyan. Cindy is voiced by Jai Moore. Credits spoken by Roslyn Quin. Recorded by Kermie Breydon.
For more information about Love and Luck, check out our website, loveandluckpodcast.com. You can also find us on facebook as Love and Luck Podcast, and follow us on twitter, at @LoveLuckPodcast.