A “deaf” café is to open in Brighton this month. It will be the first sign language venue of its kind in the city.
Dottie’s Café, in East Brighton Park, in Wilson Avenue, will be run by deaf staff and sign interpreters and will be open to everyone.
The team behind the concept prefer the term “signing community café” and emphasise that all are welcome.
The menu will include audio descriptions and braille – and food can be ordered by customers verbally or using British Sign Language (BSL).
The not-for-profit café opened a few weeks ago with a minimal menu but it has its official opening on Saturday 15 October with its full menu and facilities.
The free event will run from 10am to 4pm and will include face painting, a dog show, deaf bikers, a bouncy castle – and the mayor Councillor Pete West will be attending.
In the evening there will be an exclusive VIP launch party which will feature a pop-up chef providing a three-course meal. Tickets for the evening event will be £20 and can be bought at the café.
Ruthanne Garrett, a member of the community interest company that set the café up, said: “The café was created with the purpose of raising awareness of and making deafness less scary for hearing people. Deaf people have opened the café to help the community.
“We plan to set up a local tourist information area, run courses for children who are currently not in school, have space available for those who home educate their children and run a range of courses including BSL, driving theory, English and computing skills in BSL.
“There is also a wellbeing room which charities and community groups can use throughout the month, including debt charities, signing hairdressers and reiki healers.”
Community office manager Stephanie Hajebi said: “Dottie’s Café is doing so well and the community is fantastic.
“We had a lot of customers who are very excited about the café and its community. The local community has been very generous with donations of items and time. We have had a few volunteers come in to help freshen up the building with a lick of paint.”
There are currently eight paid staff at the café and a group of volunteers. Cupcake Shake, a business run by local teenagers, will have an outlet within Dottie’s which will provide work experience opportunities for teenagers.
More than 30 sixth-formers from Hamilton Lodge, the Brighton school and college for deaf children, recently helped to decorate the café.
The café welcomes volunteers with hearing or additional needs and it has a support worker available daily to ensure all volunteers are supported.
Mrs Hajebi said that the café would provide “high-quality, delicious food and drink while looking at ways to address food poverty and reduce food waste within the city”.
She said: “We are working with the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership to look at providing healthy, low-cost meals at weekends for the community. There will also be one low-cost meal on the menu every day during the week.”
Café staff and volunteers are currently fundraising for kitchen equipment, crockery and furniture and have raised £282 on their crowdfunding page so far. They hope to raise £7,500 in total.
Customers of the café have praised its work, with one saying: “The staff here are very kind and have such exciting ideas for the café. For example, they thought it would be great to have basic signs in photo frames so customers can try to sign to the deaf employees.”
Mrs Hajebi said that Dottie’s Café motto was: “To be the ‘in crowd’ that everyone is welcome to be in.”