United Sommeliers Foundation

Emergency Fund for US Sommeliers affected by COVID-19 restaurant closures

With enforced restaurant closure across the country, the hospitality industry has come to a screeching halt. Like so many restaurant workers, professional sommeliers now find themselves jobless, without income, and in a particularly vulnerable and uncertain position. 

It takes years of study to become a professional sommelier. And yet — almost overnight — thousands of sommeliers across the country have lost 100% of their income, with no guarantee jobs will be available if and when the restaurant industry recovers. 

Did you know: Many sommeliers work in hourly, tipped or commission-based positions and often make less than the servers at the restaurant. 

When we do emerge from these trying and unprecedented times, restaurants will have to prioritize when it comes to rehiring staff. That means servers, bussers, chefs and dishwashers will be the first to return to employment. But what about sommeliers? 

If we find ourselves in a deep recession, as many are already predicting, the demand for wine and those who bring years of wine knowledge and service experience may not be so immediate. 

With this in mind, we have started a fund that can be accessed immediately by restaurant sommeliers in the U.S. whose hours have been cut or jobs have been eliminated due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In order to distribute the funds, we've created a short survey to help us prioritize those in our community who are most in-need. (Rest assured, all information shared will remain confidential.) Applicants will also be given the opportunity to sign up for unemployment coverage to get a full scope of what support is needed. Grants of $250, $500, and $1000 will be awarded to those determined by the board to be of the greatest need. Depending on availability of funds, distribution will begin as soon as possible.

Please consider donating or sharing if you are unable to give at this time. 

If you need funding, please apply here.  We will consider sommeliers in distribution, depending on the circumstances.

We will reach out to those we feel are most in need of support shortly.  

The funds are being collected and grant recipients will be chosen by a panel of board members including Chris Blanchard MS, Geoff Labitzke MW, Jackson Rohrbaugh MS, Advanced Sommelier Erik Segelbaum, Advanced Sommelier Jon McDaniel, Lindsey Geddes MS, Advanced Sommelier Yannick Benjamin, Cristie Norman and board members who wish to remain anonymous.

We are in the process currently of filing for our 501c3 status and your donations will be tax deductible.

Donations ()

  • Michael Henley 
    • $1,000 
    • 2 d
  • marc Guerguy 
    • $100 
    • 2 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $75 
    • 3 d
  • Anthony Kim 
    • $200 
    • 3 d
  • David Kaye 
    • $250 
    • 5 d
See all

Fundraising team: United Sommeliers Foundation (5)

Chris Blanchard 
Napa, CA
Cristie Norman 
Team member
Erik Segelbaum 
Team member
Geoff Labitzke 
Team member
Jon McDaniel 
Team member
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