From Valley News: Out & About: Q&A, Queer Happy Hour With Amy Vickers
Hanover — When the Burlington-based restaurant The Skinny Pancake arrived in downtown Hanover in 2016, it brought with it a number of forward-thinking business practices, including serving as much locally produced food as possible, working toward zero waste and supporting up-and-coming area music acts. Now add to that list offering a regular opportunity for area LGBT people to get together. The Lebanon Street restaurant has begun hosting an “Out in the Valley! Queer Happy Hour and Mixer” every third Thursday of the month, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The next gathering will be Dec. 21. Purchases are optional.
Co-hosted by Spectra, the LGBTQIA+ alliance at Dartmouth College, the event is intended to provide a safe place for people of all ages to meet new friends, socialize and listen to live music in a welcoming environment.
Amy Vickers, of Bradford, Vt., front-of-house manager at The Skinny Pancake, discussed Queer Happy Hour in an email Q&A. The exchange has been edited for length and clarity.
Question: Where did the idea for the Queer Happy Hour come from?
Answer: As a lesbian living in the Upper Valley for 12 years, I know firsthand that it can be hard to feel as though you are part of a gay community when everyone is so spread out geographically, (even though) the people in this area are warm, welcoming and open-minded, so there isn’t the need for a local, specifically gay bar where one can feel safe being themselves. After the election and ensuing intolerance nationally, I imagined it would be stressful and frightening for college students to be away from their support systems and in a new, uncertain environment. I thought it would be great to make a public statement saying that The Skinny Pancake, and hopefully Hanover and the Upper Valley, doesn’t just tolerate LGBT people, but they welcome (and employ!) them. I reached out to Spectra and asked if they’d be interested in any kind of partnership with us, and they were super supportive.
Q: What’s your vision for this event? Describe the type of atmosphere you’d like to cultivate.
A: I would love for the Queer Happy Hour to evolve naturally into a regular local community event where people go to socialize, network and organize. Eventually, my dream would be to see Skinny host a drag show fundraiser or some sort of a gay prom. I’d also really love for this to be a meeting place for political action groups.
Q: What other kinds of social opportunities for LGBT people are there in the Upper Valley?
A: I know that there are a few support groups and student alliances, but I am unaware of any other purely social events where people can just hang out and connect with like-minded and supportive individuals.
Q: Does happy hour attendance consist primarily of Dartmouth students, or a mix of area residents?
A: Our first happy hour was mostly college students with a few lone wolves. It’s a struggle to get strangers to mingle. We may have to do something drastic, like a karaoke or game night!
Q: What sort of live music do you plan to offer?
A: Right now any live music booked on Queer Happy Hour night is purely random and coincidental. It’d be great to get to a point where it’s so popular that we can start being more intentional with our group choices. I’d encourage anyone who wants to perform specifically on that night to contact us. We’re always looking for new acts to book.
Q: The Skinny Pancake seems to be trying to bring more energy and a greater “hipness” quotient to downtown Hanover.
A: It is a college town and I’m sure that lots of these kids are coming from places where the cultural and social opportunities are much more diverse than the current offerings in Hanover. I wouldn’t say we’re going for “hipness,” exactly, but we try to host a variety of different events accessible to everyone in the Upper Valley, and Queer Happy Hour fits into that effort. When planning an event, we’re constantly thinking of what we’d like to go to ourselves and what our guests have been asking for.
Q: What kind of response have you gotten?
A: It’s hard to tell what kind of response we are going to get at this time of year, with the college kids going on break for the holidays, but maybe it’ll be the perfect time for all the locals in the Upper Valley to come and check us out.