Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards

5 Feb. 2019
A different kind of bar awards

Over the last few years, we have profiled dozens of bartenders. Some were young, in the early days of what we hope will be a glittering careers. Others have done it all, seen it all and lived to tell the tale. Our readership, we assume, is mostly made of other bartenders who are eager to learn how the men and women we write about got their start, approach drink-making, came up with their iconic cocktails or — if they have one — opened their own bars. Basically, we write for bartenders about bartending. 

If the bottom line isn’t right, though, if the bar doesn’t at the very least break even each month, you just can’t bartend. And seldom do we get to write — or read — stories about the people who have made sure bars stayed afloat, guaranteeing in the process a sustainable outlet for the creative drinksmiths who delight us on Friday nights. At the end of the day, what matters more? That Audrey Saunders came up with the Old Cuban or that her bar, Pegu Club, has been going on for almost 14 years, fostering the development of some of the industry’s top talents? That Julie Reiner came up with the Gin Blossom or that she launched such legendary venues as Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club or Leyenda? 

If one’s interested in the development of the cocktail industry, we think the question answers itself. Obviously, the two examples we picked are bartenders. But they’re not the only ones. Behind each and every single long lasting, successful bar there is a figure — and quite often more than one — that’s making it possible. That person might not have lifted a shaker in her life. But her unique understanding of the business is making an impression, setting an example. And maybe, just maybe, we should highlight their contribution a little bit more.

That’s where Havana Club’s latest initiative comes in: the Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards. For once, a brand is not looking to find the world’s best bartender. It’s looking to reward some of the finest minds in the industry, people whose focus, drive and resilience have led them to launch successful businesses. Don’t get us wrong though: it’s not about the money people — however important there are. It really is about people who have had a vision, saw opportunity where no one did and created, sometimes against all odds, this vibrant industry of ours.

And we’re sure you do know people who fit that description. You might even be one of them. You have until the 8th of March to nominate them. Or yourself (don’t be shy — if you didn’t believe in yourself, you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur). What’s the prize, you wonder? To each entrepreneur his or her particular needs: the prize will be tailor-made to make sure it really helps the winning individuals — plural because there is more than one category.

The judges are of course recognised entrepreneurs with diverse profiles. For instance, Rhys Oldfield might not have lifted a shaker in years but in 1998 he launched Be at One, a bar that went on to become a chain of bars, with 34 sites. Tess Posthumus is the co-owner of just one bar, but she is also a published author and the co-owner of a barshow and a cocktail week, among other things. With stories and experience to spare, the six-person strong jury is in a unique position to decide who’s going to the first Bar Entrepreneur of the Year, the Best Innovator, the One to Watch and the entrepreneur who did it Against All Odds.

Their verdict will be unveiled in Cuba next May. First, though, get nominating — because the judges need you to tell them who you think should make the grade.