Tributes paid to Hong Kong bar owner Paul Buxton, 'larger-than-life Aussie who made the rest seem pallid'

Friends have fond memories of owner of Bulldogs and Doghouse bars, who had been in Hong Kong for nearly a quarter-century and has died from a heart attack at the age of 49

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 6:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 October, 2015, 12:37pm

Tributes have flowed in from around the world for Hong Kong bar and restaurant owner Paul Buxton, who died after suffering a heart attack in his Kennedy Town home on October 7. He was 49.

Buxton – who was best known for his various Bulldogs and Doghouse outlets – arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1990s. For a time he worked for restaurant owners the Parfitt brothers, the men behind Jaspas, Oolaa and Wagyu. Wayne Parfitt said: “We went to school with Paul in Queensland, Australia, and arrived in Hong Kong around the same time. He was not your standard issue. He was super passionate about life and work.’’

After a stint as general manager of Joe Bananas in the 1990s, Buxton opened the first Bulldogs in Lan Kwai Fong in 2004. His friend, New Zealander Colin Smith, said: “I started Wooloomooloo at the time Paul started Bulldogs around the corner in Lan Kwai Fong.

 "We shared the same work problems, philosophies and ideas.We’d meet up after work to solve these and the rest of the problems of the universe and to disagree about rugby. Later, we started up the waterfront strip on Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Paul went large and opened both a Bulldogs and a Doghouse there. The bands he found for those venues feature [former Motown performer] Bobby Taylor, who is said to have discovered the Jackson 5.”

The Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui Bulldogs have now closed, but the Bulldogs outlet in Kennedy Town remains open, as do the Doghouse bars in Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Smith and Buxton both got to know New Zealand actor Sam Neill at the same time. Neill said of Buxton’s passing: “Australia should have bloody paid him to be such a great ambassador for his country. Exactly the sort of larger-than-life Aussie that makes the rest seem a bit pallid.’’

Many are struggling to accept his passing. Buxton’s lawyer and friend, Ian De Witt, summed  up the feeling. “I first met Paul shortly after I arrived in Hong Kong. We were both a lot thinner. I had the honour to be his friend, and his lawyer, for all those years. We had a lot of highs and lows; at times it was a tremendous roller coaster.

“He always told me he found it a strange to have a lawyer as a friend, although it came in handy sometimes. He took great pleasure in reminding me how many Heinekens he had to sell to pay a bill. As a businessman, he possessed a drive and ambition that I have not found in anyone else. He could accomplish things no one else could.

“As a man, he was kind and thoughtful . Despite his bluff Aussie exterior, he had a heart of gold. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to help a friend. I have difficulty accepting that he is no longer with us. Those who knew him well will never forget him.“

Buxton is survived by his sister, Mechelle Buxton. Condolence books have been set up in the Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui Doghouses, as well as at the Bulldogs Grill in Kennedy Town.

The funeral will be held at St John’s Cathedral on October 29 at 2.30pm.