Creating a New Model for Accessible Wine Retail and Restaurant Design

With his acclaimed on- and off-premise spaces, Contento and Beaupierre Wine & Spirits, Yannick Benjamin is redesigning modern hospitality for all

Headshot of Yannick Benjamin
Yannick Benjamin is showing that truly accessible design extends beyond minimum regulations. Photo credit: Mikhail Lipyansky.

This is part of SevenFifty Daily’s 2023 Drinks Innovators series. You can learn more about the rest of our award-winners here.

Yannick Benjamin has been a wine industry leader for over 20 years, both in his hospitality roles and with his nonprofit organization, Wheeling Forward. Now, he’s creating a new model for barrier-free design in dining and retail with Contento, the restaurant he and George Gallego cofounded in 2021, and Beaupierre Wine & Spirits, which he and his wife, fellow sommelier Heidi Turzyn, opened in late 2022.

Benjamin uses a wheelchair, and accessibility—for his customers, staff, and himself—has been his priority from the start. “Living with virtue and doing the right thing comes at a cost,” he says. Regardless, both spaces offer design considerations that deliver what Benjamin calls “social accessibility” for people living with disabilities.

At Contento, tables are arranged with plenty of space around them and are at a height that accommodates most wheelchairs. The bar is set up with two height levels. At Beaupierre, shelving is positioned so that Benjamin and others who use wheelchairs can easily grab any bottle. Entryways are crafted so that people can roll in with ease, and the bathroom is roomy and equipped with rails. Lighting and sound can be adjusted, and adaptive menus and utensils are available. Staff members are trained to make everyone feel welcome and ask themselves what they can do that will make the experience positive for guests.

Benjamin says that when proprietors consider accessibility, they know that laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act require them to make reasonable accommodations. But while many do their best, they don’t consistently deliver warmth. “A heck of a lot of businesses and restaurants are barrier-free, but people [with disabilities] still don’t feel welcome,” he says. 

The opposite is true at Beaupierre and Contento—both in person and online. For example, on Instagram, not only do followers see appealing food and drink photos and snapshots of team members, but they also find clear, written descriptions of what is taking place in the images—allowing visually impaired audiences to experience their social posts as well. Benjamin says that offering extra dialogue, such as helping someone go through the website if it’s easier for them to shop from home, isn’t required by any law, but it demonstrates appreciation to the customer. 

Yannick Benjamin poses outside of wine shop
For Yannick Benjamin, hospitality is an essential element of making restaurant and retail spaces feel welcoming to all. Photo credit: Mikhail Lipyansky.

While making extra moves might seem like white-glove service, Benjamin realizes that meeting guests and shoppers where they are is not only better for people but also better for business. According to data from the American Institutes for Research, the total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is around $500 billion. “If you create a culture of welcoming, you’ll also create a loyal fan base,” says Benjamin.

While he isn’t the first to foster accessibility, Benjamin doesn’t want to be the last. He’s always learning and welcomes inquiry. “There is never a moment to stop having this conversation,” he says. “We can’t be afraid to put ourselves out there and ask the hard questions.”


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Jill Barth is a wine writer and journalist and a Fellowship award winner of the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. Her work has been published by, USA Today, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, France-Amérique, and others. She holds the Provence Master Level from the Wine Scholar Guild. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @jillbarth.

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