Thursday, 20 July 2017

Choosing a Meet Venue

I am reeling from a bit of sad new today. The Mitre, as the Oxfordshire community knew it, is no more. I don't know if it still operates as a restaurant, but it has left the chain that it has been a part of ever since I first discovered the place. Although there were a very questionable times there, overall it was a good venue to hold a meet at. It was low fuss and you could casually drop in without much need for reservation.

The first meet the Oxfordshire Lolitas had at The Mitre

Activity in the Oxfordshire Lolitas had winded down, but it still makes me feel sad to see The Mitre wont be what it once was. I went there not just with the community, but with friends and sometimes even just with James. Most of the staff knew who we were. So I feel as though there is now a hole which I need to fill. But here I will talk specifically about what I look for in a lolita meet venue. Although I doubt I will be doing much hosting in the near future, I hope I can find a new place to fill the void that the Mitre has left.

Firstly, is it big enough? If you are a member of a community then it is a good idea to get a rough idea of how many 'regulars' actually attend meets. Don't be out off by community groups that have multiple hundreds of members! Meets rarely get that big and when they do, people tend to break off in to little groups to do their own thing anyway. Sometimes it is good to casually pop in to a venue beforehand to get a feel of how busy the place gets. Even though a venue may seem like a suitable size, a more busy venue is less likely to be relaxing. Also, the staff will be more stretched which could potentially lower the quality of your experience. Are you likely to need to make a reservation? Although I say that you could casually go to the Mitre, this was not true around any big holidays or during big promotions. There is nothing worse than turning up somewhere only to find that it wont work out and you are going to have to find somewhere for a bunch of hungry lolitas to go to.

Another issue with business and venue size would be how easy it is to navigate the venue whilst wearing lolita. It is easy to forget just how big our petticoats can be sometimes! If you are having to squeeze past a load of narrowly spaced out tables, it can get a bit uncomfortable. Also, some toilet cubicles I have experienced whilst wearing lolita have been anything but roomy.

Is the venue easy to access? Can you easily get there from the location where your group is intending to meet up? Sometimes you may find that people are put off attending a meet if they know they are going to have to walk a long distance in their shoes (let's face it, some lolita footwear can be really uncomfortable) or if they will have to pay out for additional public transport on top of other meet expenses. If you have a disabled or less able-bodied member in your community please bear in mind how easy it is for them to access. Here in the UK we had a law passed years ago which means that all venues have to have wheelchair access. However, sometimes this 'access' is a bit questionable. You sometimes find yourself having to wait for a ramp, only for no member of staff to come along and help you.

Cleanliness is obviously another important factor. I wont name the venue, but I was once at a really nice place and needed the bathroom, only to find that the bathroom was absolutely disgusting. Sometimes scores on doors (another thing we have here in the UK) don't tell you the full story on how clean a place really is. Use a bit of common sense. Look around you. Are there any areas which look a bit abandoned? Can you see any staff members going around and cleaning tables? Sometimes in the bathroom you can see a cleaning rota which tells you when the bathroom was last cleaned, although if only a signature on a sheet is required, you can't guarantee that it was properly cleaned at the time stated. This is another reason why it is good to check out a venue beforehand if possible. At least in 'normie' clothing there is less hassle with having to hold up your many frilly layers to use the bathroom!

What sort of people go to this place? You can tell a lot about the venue by the other customers who are there. I know you shouldn't judge people by appearances, but in this instance it can give vital clues. This is especially important in venues that serve alcohol. I have lost count of the times I have been propositioned by drunk guys whilst wearing lolita. This is definitely something to avoid if you have a lot of younger members in your community. You may find some places that seem good actually have a bad reputation as well. Also look to see if the people there look like tourists or people who are local to the area. I generally like to try and find places that I know a lot of local people go to. My theory is that they know the area better than me and are more likely to know the best places to go to. As great as some websites like Tripadvisor can be, it can be a relief to get some verification from real life people, and not a computer screen, that a place is good.

You will also need to cater for any attendees who have special diets or allergies. A lot of places have menus online which are easy to access. But as an example, just because a place may seem vegetarian friendly, it doesn't mean it is any good. They may have a very limited selection available. As many of my vegetarian friends tell me, there is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere where your only dinner option is risotto! I once saw a place which labelled fish and chips as vegetarian as well, which raised a few eyebrows in my group.

How do the staff seem? Is there anything worse than getting served by a grumpy person who clearly doesn't want to be there? I know I have meant some interesting characters over the years! Working in these kind of places can be a very stressful experience and sometimes it unfortunately impacts the customer. But do try to be reasonable. We all have bad days from time to time. So unless the server does something absolutely inexcusable, I tend to turn a blind eye if somebody just looks a bit tired or bored.

Finally, is the place exciting and interesting enough? A lolita meet is supposed to be a social occasion. Sometimes this may mean going somewhere which will get the conversation started and help break the ice. Listen to the kind of music being played. Is it slow or upbeat? You may find that some lolitas want something more to a meet than simply going out and having a meal. How can you make a meet more exciting and use a venue to its full potential?

Well hopefully at some point I will be able to find the new equivalent of the Mitre in Oxford. I went to an interesting pub there recently and had a good time, so I have not completely lost hope. It is a shame that a lot of the better places are not located in the city center. Not all lolitas are lucky enough to live near 'lolita friendly' establishments and sometimes you have to get a bit inventive. Although if a community has good, strong and healthy friendships within it hopefully that can overcome a venue which didn't turn out to be all that was expected. I know there have been places I have gone to which I know I will never go back to, but the conversation was fun and we were still able to have a good time. Good company can make a bad situation a lot better.

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