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The island of Zante has had a strong flair bartending scene for many years. It was a place where many bartenders would come to spend their summer time working in the bars and clubs on the island as a way of progressing and improving their skills, whilst having the summer of a lifetime! The connection with Roadhouse in London, the UK’s best-known flair bar, was made when many of their bartenders would take a summer break and choose to work a season in Zante as a bartender. The resort of Lagana was, and still is, one of Europe’s hottest nightlife destinations. The bartenders with flair skills, showmanship and knowledge were the most sought after and employable. They would work night after night on the front outside bars enticing the tourists from the street into their venues with their impressive flair shows, bar tricks, fire shows and extraordinary cocktail making skills. It was an amazing place for them to further their abilities whilst having an amazing experience at the same time!
In 2005 the first flair competition was held in Zante on the beach under the name the “Lagana Flair Competition”. An American called Drake organized the event as a friendly competition between the local bartenders and bars. It was a very basic, but fun first time experience for the competition. Drake continued to run the competition through until 2007 with it getting better and bigger each year.
George Kaponis then took over, who was at the time the Greek Flair Bartending Champion and competing internationally. He took the competition in a whole new direction as it then started collaborating with “Roadhouse” in London. The top three competitors in the “Lagana Flair Competition” would win a place in Roadhouse’s October World Open. This night in October was also a reunion for all the Zante workers to get together which meant the Zante Bartenders had a lot of support in the crowds as they competed on the big stage!
From then on, professional competition rules were put in place and professional judges took over the judging panel. The use of official competition bar set up became standard ever since, and it all got a bit more serious, yet still remained fun at the same time!
After five years running the show, Dennis Kalogerias took over in 2012. Dennis had also competed internationally and represented Greece in flair bartending at the (IBA) International Bartending Competition three times. He changed the name of the competition to the “Zante Flair Open”, instantly giving it a more global status. The competition began attracting more and more big names from the world of flair bartending, and as the number of competitors increased… the prize money increased too!
Competitors now come to Zante for the complete holiday package. Not only do they get to compete in a world-class competition, but they also have an organized itinerary to enjoy with many activities such as boat trips, enjoying traditional Greek nights to spending time on the beach or enjoying the local nightlife in the famous bars and nightclubs.
A range of different brands have sponsored the competition with the Zante Flair Open being a great marketing event and way of capturing audiences with the uniqueness that this competition has to offer.
Sponsoring the competition is a fantastic opportunity for any brand and brings them huge exposure to audiences.
In 2017-2018 and 2019 the competition finals was held at the world famous Navagio Shipwreck Beach. This was the first time an event has ever been held at this location, thanks to the special permission received from the local Municipality in Zante. Despite the logistics behind organizing an event in such a remote and inaccessible location- it was pulled off and exceeded all expectations of being a hugely successful Flair competition final. It even saw the judges and VIPs arrive by helicopter on to the beach. It was an experience like no other for any flair bartender to compete on Shipwreck Beach.
The Zante Flair Open now works closely with the Municipality and Tourism association of Zakynthos, the British Embassy, Rythmos Radio and many other local businesses. The competition’s main sponsor for the previous six years has been the global drinks brand Stolichnaya Greece. The competition also raises money for the charity ‘Zante Strays’, which rescues local animals, caring for and re-homing them.
The event continues to grow and expand year by year. The experience the competitors take away from competing in the Zante Flair Open is invaluable and provides them with lasting memories.