Drinks International

Paige Aubort: Coming back stronger

The past seven months have forced change upon every member of the hospitality industry and, as one of Australia’s brightest talents, Paige Aubort has seen almost every aspect of her life move in different directions.

“I’m not upset with the people of the industry, I’m just upset that I put over a decade of hard work towards it and there was no support. I didn’t realise we were so fallible,” says Aubort. “It’s like dating someone for 10 years and then they just leave. I have resentment towards the industry’s lack of security.”

Prior to lockdown, Aubort was working at Bulletin Place in Sydney while running Coleman’s Academy, a not-for-profit organisation she founded in 2015 to support women in the industry.

“I was really burnt out and tired of living on no money and high rent in Sydney,” says Aubort, sitting outside her home in Scotts Head, New South Wales. “I thought I’d be ready to go again after two weeks but actually it’s taken a few months to reset.”

Aubort was ranked 38 in this year’s Drinks International Bar World 100, making her one of the most prominent members of Australia’s bar scene. She had planned to open a venue in London in 2020 and possibly take Coleman’s with her to Europe, but the travel restrictions and financial demands of London prevented her move. Instead, Aubort stayed local and was set to open a cafe/bar in Scotts Head with the managing director of Bulletin Place. The pair had worked hard on the concept from start to finish and even done the photography for the new space, but for various reasons it fell through at the start of September.

“I was totally heartbroken, I’d fallen in love with the place and I cried for days. But instead I’ve decided to study a diploma in commercial interior design in Melbourne.” This may seem a drastic change in direction, but having worked with Lobo Group’s Dre Walters to help open Parisian-style bar Kittyhawk in Sydney, Aubort is obsessed with the process of conceptualising.

“When I was going through the process of designing a business front to back, I realised I wanted complete control over the interior design. I joined Lobo Plantation to become the best possible bartender I could in order to make me a better manager, and now, by studying interior design I hope to become the most complete operator I can.”

It may feel like the industry is losing a valuable member in the aftermath of Covid, but it won’t be for long. “I’m going to work in hospitality while I study. I’m a sucker for it,” she adds. “It’ll be nice to go back into the industry but not have it as a full-time job so I can relax more. I quite often get asked what my signature cocktail is but I don’t have one, I just really like people. I’m people smart, not book-smart.”

While Aubort’s studies take priority on the south coast, it brings an end to Coleman’s Academy.

“It’s not that I don’t think there’s a time and a place for Coleman’s, I think there always will be, I just fell out of love with it. I was having to convince girls to show up and it went from a labour of love to just labour. It’s tough to quantify its success but it definitely changed a lot of women’s lives, so I’m happy with what I achieved with it.”

Aubort’s success in the bar world isn’t just testament to her engaging persona, but a drive to improve herself and genuine desire to help others. And although these traits have made her popular behind the bar, her future may be on the other side. “I love coming up with concepts. Scheming and finding improvements in things is what I’m best at. My dream job would be to pitch myself to brands, take their ideas and improve them.”

Aubort has a habit of throwing all her energy into life, which is what makes her good at everything she tries, but having time away during lockdown has allowed her to recharge and rethink in order to come back stronger. “Yeah, I feel like it’s in my blood, I fucking love it but I think I needed a break.”

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