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Havana Club names Bar Entrepreneur of the Year

Oliver Margan, founder of Australian bar Maybe Mae, has been crowned the winner of the Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards 2020.

Oliver Margan, founder of Maybe Mae in Adelaide, Australia
Oliver Margan, founder of Maybe Mae in Adelaide, Australia

Margan was named the winner of the second Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards competition during an online ceremony on Monday (25 January).

The competition seeks to celebrate the ‘determination, passion, and entrepreneurship’ of the pioneers behind some of the world’s top bars.

The judging panel comprised: Rhys Oldfield, co-founder of UK-based bar chain Be at One; Juan Valls, founder of Spanish bar show Fibar; Ara Carvallo, co-founder of trade fair Barra Mexico; Cécile Bullet of Paris Dauphine University, and business owners Tess Posthumus, Kelsey Ramage, Vijay Mudaliar and Rasmus Lomborg.

Margan stormed to success in the 2020 competition after beating 13 finalists for the top title and a cash prize of €20,000 (US$24,200).

Judges praised the bar owner for his success at the helm of Adelaide cocktail den Maybe Mae, which Margan opened in 2014 at the age of 22. Since then, the venue has been recognised for establishing the city’s cocktail culture.

Margan also has six other venues under his belt including Adelaide bar West at Henley and Asian restaurant Shōbōsho, and employs more than 150 staff.

Margan said: “I am blown away to be named Havana Club’s Bar Entrepreneur of the Year, it is a true honour. This recognition and investment will have a huge impact as we continue to establish Adelaide’s cocktail and cuisine scene.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amazing work of my team who have worked tirelessly in such a difficult climate to make our bars a success, so I would personally like to thank them for their dedication and motivation. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us, and I’m looking forward to growing our community.”

Yeferson Avila Rodriguez and Jean Trinh, co-owners of Alquímico bar
Yeferson Avila Rodriguez and Jean Trinh, co-owners of Alquímico bar

Special recognition awards

Other awards revealed during the ceremony included ‘The True Grit Award’, a special recognition to honour ‘strength, resilience and bravery’ during the challenging period; ‘One to Watch’, focussed on up-and-coming talent under the age of 30; and ‘Social and Eco Entrepreneurship’, an award that recognises a commitment to improving the environment or a local community. Each winner of these awards received a €10,000 (US$12,100) cash prize.

The True Grit Award was given to Ranji Al Raji, owner of Brazzaville bar in Lebanon. Al Raji faced a number of challenges over the last year, including economic struggles, electricity shortages and the fallout of the explosion in the country’s capital.

The One to Watch was awarded to ‘rising star’ Omer Gazit-Shalev, CEO of bar operator Monkey Business Group in Israel. Gazit-Shalev impressed the judges with the diversity and variety of projects he has worked on.

The Social and Eco Entrepreneurship award went to Yeferson Avila Rodriguez and Jean Trinh, co-owners of Alquímico bar in Columbia. The duo achieved the award after putting their team to work at the Alquímico Farm, which grows organic produce for use in cocktails. The farm has since become an educational space for the local agricultural community and drinks industry professionals.

Anne Martin, global marketing director at Havana Club International, said of the three award winners: “They all demonstrated incredible passion and determination in what has been one of the most challenging periods for the hospitality industry.

“We have been truly moved by your stories of ambition, resilience and courage, and we look forward to seeing the legacy of the Bar Entrepreneur Awards grow in the coming years.”

The awards ceremony concluded with an exclusive performance from German rapper Kelvyn Colt.

Carina Soto Velasquez, co-owner of Quixotic Projects in Paris, was named the winner of the inaugural Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards in 2019.

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