Just like the Scissor Sisters sing on their famous track, Rochesterites “wanna have a kiki.”
A kiki is a social gathering that’s historically connected to LGBTQIA+ communities. The Scissor Sisters describe it in their song “Let’s Have a Kiki” as “a party for calming all your nerves.” Now, there’s a weekly kiki at Little Thistle Brewing Company (2031 14th St. NW, Rochester) every Thursday night from 6-8 p.m.
The weekly meetup, which started in October, was founded by Bryan Matthew Chase who says he saw a need for an “inclusive queer space in a welcoming local place.”
“I was looking for a title for the events that was obviously queer,” explains Chase.
One aspect of the kiki that is very important to Chase is that it embraces diversity. “All LGBTQIA+ folx are welcome at the kiki,” he says. “All of us—of all races, gender identities, ages, and abilities. A lot of queer spaces cater to gay white cis men, which I am, and I've benefited from those spaces. I'm working to make sure this does not become another one of those places.”
In particular, Chase says the kiki is an inclusive and welcoming place for trans people, nonbinary people, people of color, and younger people. “It may be surprising for some, but historically LGBTQ folx have been internally fractured,” he says, “and that's true of Rochester too. It's important for us to have a place where all queer folx truly are welcome.”
The kiki got its start when Little Thistle reached out to Rochester Pride saying they wanted to be more involved in the local queer community. Chase is the Vice-Chair of Rochester Pride, and the brewery’s outreach spurred him to consider hosting a weekly LGBTQIA+ event there, even though the kikis are not technically a Rochester Pride event.
“The one thing I asked was that (Little Thistle) be part of the kikis too,” he says. “I didn't want the kiki to be an event that just happened to be at this business and they only saw it as a means of making money.”
Chase says this desire has been more than met. “I wanted us to be welcome, to be wanted in this space, and we are.”
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“As a small community brewery, it’s very important that we provide a welcoming environment to everyone, including our friends from the LGBTQIA+,” says Dawn Finnie, the Little Thistle Brewing Company CEO. “One of our goals, when we opened, was to create a warm, welcoming space for friends and family to gather over a pint and just be together. That’s exactly what the kiki events are,” Finnie says.
Both Dawn and Steve Finnie say they think they “hit the jackpot” with their staff. “The fabric of our brewery is made up of a diverse group of people that we feel fortunate to be part of our beer family,” Finnie says. “It makes us a better business to have opinions, ideas, creativity, and experience from different voices. … To think that any of those friends were marginalized or treated differently at Little Thistle would be tough.”
It’s also important to make inclusive spaces in breweries, which are historically white and male.
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“Supporting our community here in Rochester is extremely important to us, and sometimes you need to take extra steps to say ‘We see you. We value you. We are grateful you’re part of this community,’” says Dawn Finnie.
So far, the plan seems to be working. Josh Neis found out about the meetup through Facebook events, and Brittany Anderson found out about the kiki in a LGBTQIA+ social media group. For Anderson, part of what makes the kiki special is meeting new friends.
“Bryan always introduces me to new people when they arrive, and makes sure everyone gets to meet everyone else,” Anderson says.
One of Chase’s favorite memories from the weekly gathering is inviting people he’s never met to join the kiki group at their rainbow flag-draped table. “Twice I’ve met queer folks who happened to be at Little Thistle during the kiki but didn’t know what it was, and then joined our table,” he says.
If you’ve been looking for a place where you are welcomed, consider kicking it at the Little Thistle kiki.