By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Taking the role of community hub seriously, more than 40 pubs across Sydney and several in regional areas and interstate are taking part in Equality Weekender this weekend (17-20 August).

In response to analysis suggesting that a postal plebiscite will deter younger people from voting, Kat Dopper, founder of Heaps Gay events, has organised the Equality Weekender initiative. The drive will help patrons check if they are enrolled with the Australian Electoral Commission, so that they can take part in the impending marriage equality postal plebiscite. Currently 14 per cent of eligible young people are not enrolled to vote, equating to 800,000 people.

“They thought young people wouldn’t vote so let’s prove them wrong,” stated Dopper.

Many single operator and group venues are getting involved, putting on parties and promotions to encourage patrons to check that they are enrolled to vote. Taking part in the initiative are hubs for the LGBTQI community in Sydney, Stonewall and Imperial Hotels.

“This is very important for Stonewall Hotel and our community. Stonewall Sydney takes its name from the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the beginning of gay liberation as we know it,” stated Glenn Hansen, promotions and marketing manager.

“In 1969 we were fighting for gay rights. Here in 2017 we are fighting for marriage equality and we need Australia to step up and support the LGBTQI community.”

While levity is being used to promote the drive, the team behind Imperial Hotel in Erskineville do not want the more serious message to get lost in the festivities.

“We don’t see this as a party or promotion. We will be opening up our doors from 2pm to help guide people through the process of registering their correct details. For us this is simply a way of giving back to the community that has supported us throughout the years and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard,” said Philip Gannon, food and beverage manager for Sydney Collective.

He then added: “Let’s be honest though we will certainly be pumping up the tunes while Felicity Froccachino puts the last of the mascara on for her version of the Priscilla show.”

Several of Paddy Coughlan’s inner-west and south Sydney venues will be getting involved, including The Lord Gladstone, The Lady Hampshire and Botany View Hotels. Coughlan expressed disbelief that such an initiative was even necessary.

“I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation. The majority of the country wants this to happen, why has it taken so long? Why the hell are we doing a postal vote? What year is it? Any way we can help as many people enrol to vote as possible, particularly young people, we’re there.”

With diversity being a core value of the group, Solotel venues will also be supporting the initiative this weekend, and will look at other ways to drive the pro-marriage equality message in the future.

“We’ve been working with Equality Weekender to activate our venues that want to raise awareness about the importance of being enrolled for the vote. In the lead up to November we will also be consulting with staff and the broader community on the best approach to help shape the debate in the right direction,” stated Dan Lacaze, marketing director.

Known as a party pub, The Lansdowne will be hosting “an old-fashioned knees up” for Equality Weekender with DJs, pizza, beer and a drag show. They’ll also have iPads at the bar so people can check their enrolment. Jake Smyth explained why the venue was so keen to get involved.

“Pubs are run by people. Our people come from every part of the world and every walk of life, every colour, every gender and every sexual orientation. We are noisy bastards about the most mundane of things – we were always going to use every bit of our breath to scream with those who have had their call for equality ignored.”

Dopper says that the postal vote caught everyone by surprise, but that with little time to organise the initiative, over 50 venues stepped forward, with more reaching out for the cause.

“Its not about marriage – it’s a human rights issue. Let’s show them how we can all come together for a cause.”

Venues can find more information on the initiative at

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