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Rachel Hosking (she/they), is the co-founder of My Lover Cindi, Adelaide’s
Queer utopian nightclub.
Rachel and co-founder Kate Toone (she/they) opened the bar in May 2021. They describe the space as Inclusive, intersectional and accessible.
Rachel talks about opening a space that is purposely inclusive, prioritising visibility and employment of people with disability and other marginalised groups, and never being above community feedback.
Produced by: Black Me Out Productions
Growing Bold and fostering diversity and inclusion:
Pete:Welcome to the Grow Bold with Disability Podcast. Brought to you by Feros Care. A podcast dedicated to smashing stereotypes and talking about the things people with disability, care about most, to help us live bolder, healthier,
better-connected lives. I’m journalist Pete Timbs
Tristram: and I’m Tristram Peters. I work for disability service directory, clickability, and I’m a wheelchair user living with spinal muscular atrophy
Pete: Today’s episode of grow Bold with disability is Growing Bold by fostering diversity and inclusion and our guest is Rachel Hosking. Now she’s the co-owner of an amazing new, exclusive – no it’s an inclusive nightclub actually
in Adelaide in South Australia called My Lover Cindi. In this episode, we’ll hear all about the concept of My Lover Cindi, it’s pretty incredible and why Rachel and her business partner Kate Toone, thought Adelaide, actually Australia needs
spaces like My Lover Cindi and where the great name came from as well. Rachel, welcome to Grow Bold with Disability.
Rachel: Thank you so much for having me.
Tristram: So firstly Rachel, my lover Cindi is an LGBTIQ+ nightclub with the focus on accessibility. Can you tell us everything about it? You know, what is it about?
Rachel: Sure, so my Lover Cindi is listed as a bar and nightclub and LGBTIQ+ space, it is essentially a; yeah it is a bar and nightclub space, but we also have this real focus on kind of community stuff. We’ve always wanted to
be more than just, I guess I say just in inverted commas a nightclub, and we just wanted to be able to centralize a whole lot of kind of really cool community stuff that’s happening in in LGBTIQ+ communities um here in Kaurna land. So I guess
in terms of inception, um it came around after Kate and I were actually having a conversation in our kitchen. We wanted to go out, we wanted to go out and enjoy a night of partying somewhere. We have friends who use mobility aids and we have
noticed on many occasions, there’s been real issues with some of our friends being able to partake in nightlife in Adelaide, especially in LGBTIQ+ spaces. So that’s basically where the concept was born. What else would you like to know?
Pete: Well before actually, before you opened this place, Kate worked in social services in academia and you did a little bit of a [hospitality], you’ve had a bit of [hospitality] experience while you were doing your undergrad
Rachel: Yeah, that’s it.
Pete:What made you decide, I know what you just said then, but what, that’s a big step sides going, we can’t find somewhere to go out to being a nightclub owner.
Rachel: Rachel: Sure, sure, sure, sure. Seems like a bit of a longbow. I guess with our backgrounds, both of us, you know, it felt like a really natural and organic fusion of our passions. So Kate being a social worker by trade,
myself having a real interest in human psychology and also super super passionate about hospitality in and out of it for years, I also have a bit of a background in banking, so that was kind of, that, I guess business the side of things, a
bit of experience there. So whilst on paper it looks like a bit of a longbow, it was actually a really organic kind of decision that we came to this kind of like a bit of a light bulb moment that we had upon, you know, it was actually just
years and years and years of frustrations, I guess around limitations in Adelaide’s nightlife for LGBTIQ+ people that ended up coming to this kind of, this, this conversation in our kitchen and deciding to really commit to providing something
that was going to be really meaningful and fun for lots of people. So yeah, that’s how it came around from our backgrounds.
Tristram: And I’d love to hone in on the accessibility, just a little bit more.
Tristram: I mean the last time I went to a nightclub, I had to go up a lift. That manager had a key to.
Tristram: The manager disappeared, so I was actually stuck for an hour just waiting to get into the place. So access for me is so, so important
Tristram:I mean, what does that focus look like you and why, you know along a similar vein, why is it important for your nightclub?
Rachel:Sure, Tristram, I’m so sorry, that happened. That sounds really frustrating. Again we wanted to open somewhere that was going to be accessible, we wanted it to be a really intrinsic part of the business that we were building,
because historically and currently there is a real limitation for people who use mobility aids in partaking in nightlife, like as you’ve just given that anecdotal account for yourself. So it was a real non-negotiable for us, because yeah,
there’s just this, you know, a whole group of people within the LGBTIQ+ community who were excluded from night spaces, in Adelaide. Adelaide does have a lot of, I guess you’d say heritage listed buildings which makes installation of things
like lifts and stuff, a real barrier for a lot of businesses. We actually looked at four different sites before landing on our current one, because it was just, it was just never going to be a negotiable for us. We were not going to open a
venue that we couldn’t invite everybody into and still call it, you know, we wanted to call ourselves an inclusive venue. So yeah, it was a huge part of our ethos from the beginning, and it kind of informed a lot of the decision making around
doorways and, you know, once we had actually landed on the site that was going to be appropriate. I should preface with that. Once we landed on the site that was going to be appropriate, we drew on experiences of friends who use mobility aids,
different types of mobility aids. We put out a survey to the LGBTIQ+ community to access to help inform a lot of the decisions around the physical location of things to the best of our ability within a rather limited budget. And just little
things like where a hand soap dispenser should be in bathrooms, how a swing door can make or break someone’s night experience because it doesn’t work properly and things like that. It was really imperative to us as well that everyone who would
access the venue would use exactly the same entrance and there was not going to be any need for I guess staff to have to assist somebody to physically access the venue. So yeah, we were really fortunate that eventually we came across a site
that was going to meet those needs and we knocked down a couple of doorways and put in more appropriate ones, to just try and make it as accessible as possible.
Pete:Now it’s not just; well it’s accessibility in the ethos as well, but also like I noticed on your drinks menu, like there’s menus for non-alcoholic, lots of non-alcoholic options. You said you did the survey, this thing was
Pete: Now was it, to have a venue that’s inclusive and accessible, is it more expensive? And if not then why don’t more people do it?
Rachel:Look, it’s a really good question. I think, just I don’t understand why more businesses are not making these sorts of concerted efforts, because we know that a large percentage of the population do identify as having disabilities,
and you know currently not being able to access venues, it’s you know. Even just wholly from a business perspective, that doesn’t actually make any sense. I think it’s just unfortunately a huge part of so-called Australian culture, it’s just
this sort of erasure of people with disabilities. So in answer to your question in some parts, yes, making a lot of those changes is expensive and that you know that I’m sure has been a barrier for some people. Things like the sober offerings
etcetera. Again, it’s more time and effort and you know really carefully thinking about menus to make sure that you’re going to meet as many needs as possible. There isn’t of course a one size fits all approach. And we know that with accessibility
as well, you know, something that might be accessible to one person is actually going to be a barrier for another one. So we really avoid using terms like fully accessible for that reason. But yeah, we’re super super grateful to everybody
who helped informed these things through the survey and through physically coming through the venue to help us make some of these decisions which yeah, they do cost money and you know, that is just a part of it, but for us it just was not
going to be a, you know, it was a real non negotiable, we’d rather compromise on other things and have the venue be accessible.
Pete: Wow, great.
Tristram:Yes. So well said and related to that in your mission statement, you also mentioned employment opportunities for those who have limitations. How has that come to fruition?
Rachel:Yes, it’s amazing. The way that that works I guess is that yes, we are a bar and night space and we advertised roles that would be suitable for running a bar and night space, but we’ve tried to in our employment process
prioritise people with disabilities as well as, you know, people from other marginalised groups. And that’s actually ended up coming to fruition through things like, you know, providing appropriate support roles. Like for example, if people
have physical disabilities, we’ve got a few people on rotation on our door. So people who actually manage the queue and they take payment and things like that at the door. Other types of disabilities aren’t necessarily as visible and we try
and support our staff as best as possible in that, you know, somebody needs to take a break and they need to take a break. There’s just no kind of, there’s no issues with that stuff. It’s just built into our culture as employers. And in turn,
it means that, you know, our patrons, it’s so, so so important to have representation and it means that our patrons come in and they can see people who either who look like them in some way or you know able to be in the workforce in this vibrant
night space. So it’s not necessarily about employing somebody who’s got the best cocktail flaring skills, it’s just that was just never part of our ethos because all of that stuff comes, you can teach that stuff, but you can’t, you can’t manufacture
the type of interactions that our staff are able to provide our customers that keeps people coming back. So it’s really beautiful to see.
Pete:Great idea. Now you guys opened what end of May 2021 last year?
Rachel: Yeah. It was just at the end of May last year.
Pete:So what have you guys learned? I mean everyone you can go into, I know, I’ve built places from scratch as well so you can go in with all the greatest ideas. But then you have to adapt.
Pete:I can hear you laughing already know what I’m going to say.
Pete:What have you had to adjust to get this inclusion accessibility up to where it is now?
Rachel:For sure. I mean look, it’s all a learning process and by no means were we perfect from the beginning and we’re definitely not there now either as a business. We do have limitations that will mean that we’re never perfect
for people with disabilities. However, you know, things like the opening night weekend, we were really, really, really, busy. Which was great but that did present some challenges for people who were trying to access the bar. So despite having
even on opening night, very clearly marked priority access area for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, through lack of ability to manage those cues on the night, just because of how busy we were, it meant that for some people, I believe
that experience was not as positive as it should have been. So what we did in response to that was we actually moved the priority access area. We got a fresh rope to kind of clearly mark that out. We’ve put up additional stuff on our social
media and trained our staff in prioritizing that area of service. So that on the other nights where we have been really busy since, it is just that little bit easier for people with mobility aids to actually access the bar. We’ve taken on
feedback about things like, just really little things like glass wear. For example, if somebody is using a wheelchair, it may not be appropriate to serve a martini in a martini glass for that person. So we ask, we simply ask the person how
they would like their drinks serve, whether they like it in the traditional glass or whether they’d like that, you know, in a mason jar and everybody’s different. You know, for some people, they would still prefer to have it in a martini glass.
Other people say, hey, I’ll have a mason jar. Thanks for asking little things like that.
Tristram: I will 100% will take the mason jar. (All laugh)
Tristram: And, I mean with those learnings, how is the club being accepted within the community? The LGBTIQ+ community, the Adelaide community, how has it been accepted?
Rachel: Look, I like to think overwhelmingly positive because you know, the people who we have in the venue are happy and they come back and as a business, you know, we’ve been able to survive through Covid and some of the biggest
challenges that can be really facing a bricks and mortar business in its early days of inception. I don’t know what sort of external broad criticisms there maybe of the venue. If there are, then they’re not landing on our plate for us to be
able to address. We’re really open to feedback. Like even on our website, there’s stuff about contacting us, if you have any issues. We put up signs around the venue to say if you’re having issues come to the bar, if you can notify security,
that sort of thing. But all of our original staff members who started with us are still very much engaged and I think that that’s a real sign of sort of loyalty and that we must be doing something right.
Pete: Yeah, and in this day and age, if no one’s complaining, then, you know, you’re doing a good thing.
Rachel:Yeah and you know, you got to have a thick skin. The community is super, super diverse. You know, there is, it’s not a monolith and like I started it with earlier, you know, one thing that’s appropriate for some, or for
one person is inappropriate for another person. But it’s just about how you manage feedback when it’s presented to you. And I think in our mission statement, we even mentioned, you know, never being above community feedback. And that’s something
that we’ve really tried to hold onto. So yeah, we address things, we address issues when they come up and do our best to try and fix them within the scope that we have.
Pete: Yeah. Now, we’ve obviously mentioned the LGBTIQ+ community and the disability community. Why do you think these two communities keeps sort of getting banded together when it comes to things like this?
Rachel:Look, I think that stuff around intersectionality of those things is really valid. They seem to intersect frequently. I’m thinking even historically in Adelaide they’ve been issues with accessibility in LGBTIQ+ spaces for
as long as, you know, I’ve been around and that’s only, you know, that’s been 20 years now that I’ve been out in night spaces. I think it’s that understanding of being a little bit different to the heteronormative, able bodied existence. That
is the mainstream, and that’s the default, I guess for existence in so called Australia’s that, that is the norm. That is the structures, that is all that kind of covert stuff that just exists in our day to day lives. So when somebody identifies
as being a part of the LGBTIQ+ community, you’re sort of somewhat removed from that norm and I think that that there’s this sort of intrinsic understanding across community, so that when you’ve also got somebody who maybe identifying as being
disabled, they are also outside of that default heteronormative existence, which is built very much for able bodied people. So I guess that’s how I best answer that around how that intersection often happens. It’s just that shared understanding
of deviating, not deviating, but being different from the norm.
Pete: Yeah, 100%.
Tristram:And you also have some amazing acts come through the venue
Tristram:: Tell us a little bit more about some of the interesting ones, some of the acts you get through.
Rachel:Yeah, for sure. So we are a bar and night space, so we have DJs and dancing when we’re allowed to dance, although we haven’t been able to do that for the majority of our trade when it is happening, it’s fantastic. Our dance
floor is full of people from all different walks of life. Which is one of the things I think I love most about the venue is that there never seems to be two people there who are the same, on the dance floor and things like that. You’ve got
people who are using mobility aids, different types, you’ve got able bodied people, we’ve got people from all kind of ranges of age spectrum. So other types of performance stuff that we put on, we work with producers who, put on things like
alternative drag nights. So it’s, again, it’s about providing that space for things that are just a little bit outside of the normal cookie cutter LGBTIQ+ stuff that you see everywhere. So a lot of stuff for up and coming type of drag performers.
We also do variety nights with some producers called The Finest Filth. And they just put on this short, sharp, shiny kind of range of performances ranging from things like theatre, to stand up, to kind of cabaret and feminist poetry and things
like that. So, super, super diverse in that particular offering, which is awesome and always absolutely hilarious. So it’s, you know, a lot of the time, some of the things that are being put on are super light hearted, but they do have these
key themes that underpin them that are generally around social issues, that really connects with our audiences who participate in that stuff.
Pete:Amazing. So now, Covid, brand new nightclub, 12 months, has this scared you off? Are we going to see more clubs like, like yours outside of Adelaide another one or are you too scared?
Rachel:Look I hope so. I really, really hope so. I’d love to see other venues keep popping up. And I guess the thing for us is that we really wanted to open somewhere that was just going to be an alternative offering. And a big
thing about keeping business ethical is about providing choice to people. And if we can keep seeing more and more of them pop up, then that would be great. We don’t want to be exceptional for having an accessible venue. We really want that
to be the norm. Give people choice, let people come to us for what they want to come to. Go to other venues for what they want to go to there. As for how often that’s going to happen, I’m not too sure some of the major barriers to actually
putting on something like this, even outside of Covid is a lot of red tape around things like insurance, which is super, super tricky to get and even harder to hold on to, especially in this climate with Covid and things.
Pete:So sorry, is that an insurance issue because of the accessibility, therefore with having disabled people on site. Is that the issue?
Rachel:No, not even to be honest. It’s just a blanket issue for bricks and mortar business, trying to be established as night spaces. Liquor licensing is a big deal. So when it comes to the accessibility stuff, fortunately that’s
actually not even on the radar of some of that, you know, really bureaucratic messy stuff. But yeah, I mean, I would really, really hope that other people decide to take this sort of leap of faith if they see that there’s things that are missing
in the night space and you know, go for it and do your research and put out surveys and things like that and we’d always be open to collaborating with people who wanted to do that.
Pete:There you go, Tristram. There’s your next venture in Brisbane buddy.
Tristram: I was going to say bring it to Brisbane. We’re ready. No one hour waits for lifts. I’m ready to go. Yeah, so love to know Rachel. Where did the name actually come from as well?
Rachel:Sure, the name My Lover Cindi is a bit of a throwback, to an old lesbian drama called The L word.
Pete:Hey that’s not old. Now you’re having a go at me. (Laughs)
Rachel:Yeah, they’ve done a bit of a reboot. And whilst we acknowledged that the original series was loaded with problems for a whole bunch of reasons. It was at the time, kind of the only real representation that we had on mainstream
tv for lesbians. And yeah, so there was a character in The L Word called Cindy Tucker. And her and her partner Dawn Dembo kind of come flying in and open this gay bar or whatever and the character Dawn Dembo who’s a bit of the alpha, I guess
you’d say, she’s pretty assertive. She’s always introducing Cindy as my lover Cindi. That’s all she just gets to that, My lover Cindi. And then eventually Cindy Tucker ends up leaving the destructive relationship and she storms off, saying
“My name is not my lover Cindi. My name is Cindy Tucker” and storms off. So it’s all very dramatic. But yeah, it’s just a bit of a homage to that. And also gay bars have for a long time been named very, very effeminate names. So
we’re just kind of paying tribute to that.
Pete:Very nice, very nice, very old school of you. But don’t say L Word’s that old Rachel.
Pete: Now we like to wrap up each episode with the question. Here we go. You ready?
Pete:Because it’s obviously named Grow Bold with Disability. What does living a bold life mean to you?
Rachel:Living a bold life means to me, living authentically. It means being who you are, to the best of your ability all of the time. It means taking risks and it means loving each other.
Pete:Well, I think you’re doing that especially with the authentically bit. You’re doing an incredible job with My Lover Cindi and if anyone is in Adelaide, made sure you look them up. Where are you guys based? Flinders street
in CBD, aren’t you?
Rachel:Yeah, Flinders street. So just on the east side sort of heading towards the parklands on flinders street, 223. We’re in a building that was historically known as the German club. So you might have had a schnitz and fest
there several years ago, but it’s definitely had a bit of a glow up.
Pete:Sounds like it. Yes. Now Rachel, Thank you so much for joining us today on Grow Bold with Disability brought to you by Feros Care. And our listeners can find out more about Rachel, Kate and my lover Cindi in the links provided
in today’s episodes show notes. Thanks again, Rachel.
Rachel:Thank you so much for your time, appreciate it.
Pete:This podcast is brought to you by Feros Care, an NDIS partner delivering local area coordination services in Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Feros Care is a people care organization committed
to helping people live bolder lives. We call it Growing Bold. For over 30 years, Feros has been making it real for both older Australians and those living with disability. To find out more head to www.feroscare.com.au
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