Carina Soto Velasquez, co-owner of Quixotic Projects in Paris, has been crowned the winner of the Havana Club Bar Entrepreneurs Awards.
Soto Velasquez beat 10 finalists during the final held last month in Havana, Cuba, to win the Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur of the Year title. The inaugural competition celebrates the people behind leading bars around the world.
The judging panel included: Rhys Oldfield, co-founder of UK-based bar chain Be at One; Juan Valls, founder of FIBAR; Ara Carvallo, founder of Barra Mexico; and business owners John Coe, Rasmus Lomborg and Tess Posthummus.
Soto Velasquez impressed judges by “shaking up the Paris bar scene” through her hospitality company Quixotic Projects, which she co-founded with Josh Fontaine and Adam Tsou.
The firm has “transformed” the French capital with five new venues: Candelaria, Glass, Le Mary Celeste, Les Grands Verres and Hero.
Soto Velasquez was also applauded for being a key figure in the bar industry, having worked with spirits brands to design cocktails, develop new products and organise promotional events while judging international cocktail competitions.
For winning, Soto Velasquez will be given a tailored PR campaign to boost her profile within the drinks and business communities.
Other awards on offer during the final included ‘Innovator’, a special recognition for the most exciting and successful innovation; ‘One to Watch’, focussed on up-and-coming talent under the age of 30; and ‘Against all Odds’, a special award for an entrepreneur who has overcome challenges in their life or career.
The ‘Innovator’ award was given to Germany’s Stephen Hinz for the success of Little Link Bar in Cologne. ‘One to Watch’ was presented to Canada’s Kelsey Ramage for her work on zero-waste bar initiative Trash Tiki, while London-based Rosie Stimpson grabbed the ‘Against All Odds’ prize for overcoming challenges in the opening of Oriole bar.
Nick Blacknell, international marketing director of Havana Club, said: “We would like to congratulate Carina for being crowned the first Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur of the Year, her vision and motivation for Quixotic Projects stood out to the panel and she is testament to the hard work and dedication that continues to prevail in the bar industry.
“We would also like to congratulate all of the other participants who demonstrated passion and a clear vision behind the world’s most successful bars; the jury told us they were beyond impressed with their creativity and desire.
Soto Velasquez added: “Thank you Havana Club for this recognition. These past eight years have been a hell of a ride. Congratulations to all the fantastic entrepreneurs that were nominated, majority of you I know personally and/or your bars, and you are all an inspiration to me.”