The San Francisco United States Bartender’s guild held a fundraising event stocked with colorful drinks and fancy finger food to provide Puerto Rico with support on Sunday, a little over a month after Hurricane Maria destroyed the territory.
When Rafael Rivera, brand ambassador of a distillery called Lucas Bols USA, saw the devastation on the island, he contacted the event curator, Scott Krinsky, to band together a group of volunteers to lend a helping hand. Rivera was especially affected by the hurricane because he has family in Puerto Rico, some of which he still hasn’t heard from.
“Puerto Ricans are still the American people,” Rivera said. “They may be on an island that’s miles away from the mainland, but they’re still part of America.”
Though Local Edition, the underground venue on Market street where the fundraiser was held, has a speakeasy vibe, the event was anything but hush hush. The hum of chatter erupted from every corner in the dimly lit room, as people came through to show their support.
Andrew Meltzer, a member of San Francisco’s chapter of the United States Bartender’s guild, volunteered to make drinks, like his favorite shaken Daiquiri. He said after 10 years of bartending, he’s seen the bartending community devote themselves time and time again for causes like this.
“Most of these people worked until three or four in the morning and still got up early today to organize this,” Meltzer said. “It really shows what the power of our community can do.”
SF state alumnus and co-curator of the fundraiser, Tony Devencenzi, said he expects their efforts will exceed their goal of $15,000, and set his personal goal of $40,000. He said the idea for the event grew from past inspiration, when they came together to raise money for Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York.
Devencenzi said although the brands of liquor being served in their cocktails compete on the market, for this event, their rivalry is not a part of their agenda. “What matters is how much we raise for Puerto Rico,” he said.
All their proceeds will be given to the Unidos Por Puerto Rico, a charitable organization which is directly helping those in need. They raised money by the purchase of tickets, food and drinks, as well as getting attendees to participate in a silent auction and raffle.
“We’ve had some generous donors,” Meltzer said. “One guy even donated $500 the same day we announced that we were doing this.”
Krinsky said donations for the silent auction and raffle consist of high valued items, which weren’t difficult to acquire. For example, Joe Montana, who used to play for the San Francisco 49ers, donated a signed jersey. Someone else donated a trip to taste rare and expensive types of gin.
“Not going to lie, I’ve had more grey hairs this week than I’ve had before,” said Krinsky. “We had a really strong team, the hardest part was actually getting people here.”
Even after the event, the USBG will still be accepting donations and forwarding them to Unidos Por Puerto Rico.
“This can’t just be the last [fundraising event], you need to continue on because 80 percent of the people don’t have electricity, people don’t even have water,” Rivera said.