Aaron Skinner, Piano Bar.

“I left Geelong at 18 after being chased and beaten up outside the Eureka. I never thought I’d be back, let alone be helping to run one of Geelong’s top venues.” We hear from Aaron Skinner of the Piano Bar. “I left for London thinking I’d take a 6 month break before Uni but I ended up staying for over 3 years. I worked in bars and travelled around Europe at every opportunity.

aaron skinner by amy page

“When I did eventually return to Australia, my friends had finished Uni. I, on the other hand, decided to put all my travel experience to good use and picked up a job at Qantas, working my way up from the call centres to managing the Alice Springs Airport. This led to managing all the Northern Territory airports, from Darwin.

“Then an opportunity presented itself. It was around the time Qantas were making cut backs and I took a voluntary redundancy. Next, I did the unthinkable. I returned to Geelong and moved in with Dad. Andy Pobjoy had founded the sensational Lt Malop St Piano Bar and it was just 3 months old when I stumbled in to it and fell in love. I fell in love with the vibe! I felt like I was back in New York.

“Together we decided to go bigger. It seemed like a risk with the people of Geelong often not liking change. But the move to the bigger premises in Malop St paid off. So did introducing Drag Queens. Initially they featured once a month but Geelong fell in love with them and now, they feature 2 or 3 times a week and they keep popping up everywhere. White Night, Gala Day, fundraisers, the Humans in Geelong Expo and flashmob!

“We believe in fostering community spirit and have raised over quarter of a million in fundraising. We’re the proud, major sponsors of the Geelong Rainbow Festival and are so pleased to be supporting our local LGBTQI+ community.

“Almost everyone loves the Piano Bar. It is an inclusive space. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your cultural background or your persuasion, everyone feels comfortable, valued and safe.

“We love employing a great mix of people. We’re like a big family. Big Ears in Lt Malop is our venue too and completely different to the Piano Bar. We are on track to open a Piano Bar in Colac early this year.

“To think I was never coming back to Geelong but I’ve found incredible personal satisfaction and love how it shows how far Geelong has come.”

Story: Jacqui Bennett. Photo: Amy Page