The first venue in South Australia to introduce ‘quiet dinners’ has opened at the Arkaba Hotel, Adelaide, in a partnership between Autism SA and the Australian Hotels Association SA.

To make dining out more accessible and inclusive for the autistic community, the quiet dinners will take place on the first Monday of each month from 5:00pm to 9:00pm.

A section of the venue will have lights dimmed, a reduced volume of music, a private bar to order from, and located where people can easily enter and exit without walking through crowds.

Speaking about the quiet dining initiative, Hurley Hotel Group publican, Anna Hurley said: “Our goal at the Arkaba Hotel is to be a venue for all occasions. We also want to provide a venue where everybody feels welcome and included and hope that the quiet dinner is a good extension to that.”

Autism SA’s CEO Helen Graham said the initiative will help the autistic community feel more welcome, comfortable and included.   “Many people don’t think twice about going out for dinner, but for the autistic community it can be an overwhelming experience. The quiet dinner at the Arkaba could make all the difference for someone who otherwise chooses to stay at home.”

For Australian Hotels Association SA CEO Anna Moeller the quiet night dining experience being pioneered by the Arkaba is an opportunity to make the hotel experience more inclusive and accessible to as many in the community as possible.

According to Assistant Minister for Autism Emily Bourke initiatives like quiet dinners will build knowledge of autism and help the autistic and autism communities enjoy what many take for granted, a pub meal with friends and family. “I am constantly hearing from families the difficulties they face in being able to attend a venue or event as a family unit, and from autistic adults about having sensory inclusive environments to go out and celebrate a birthday or special event,” she said.

Since the launch, more businesses have come on board to make their venues inclusive. Autism SA liaison officer Kaitlin Withers is working with the Oak and Iron Tavern in Mt Barker to create a menu that caters for sensory preferences. “In addition, more venues are creating access guides and making them available on their website so visitors can learn more about what to expect when they arrive, which is a particularly useful tool for autistic people,” she said.

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Photo: Katherine Taylor (AHA SA), Anna Hurley, Owen Webb (AHA SA) and Kaitlin Withers.