Underground Cellar, a San Francisco-based company, could easily be a wine enthusiast’s dream: for free, customers could buy and store up to 500 bottles in the company’s “temperature-controlled CloudCellar” in Napa Valley and ship them (also for free) whenever they wanted. It gets better: the company worked directly with wineries to offer exclusive wine bottle “upgrades” where, during weekly “offers,” members could purchase, let’s say, a $25 Cabernet for the chance to be upgraded to a $500 bottle of a similar wine.
However, as of late, many of Underground Cellar’s customers are anything but grateful.
In late April, the wine company abruptly halted operations, and, a few days later, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Underground Cellar owes nearly $25 million worth of wine and other debts, and some former customers are now questioning whether the CloudCellar even exists.
Gregg Thatcher, a former customer, also runs a Facebook group dedicated to discussing the current situation with Underground Cellar. It has nearly 600 members.
“It’s just horrifying. Everybody is feeling robbed,” Thatcher told The San Francisco Chronicle. “People built up these vast collections and they don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s a tremendous loss for them.” He added that he himself is owed about $1,000 worth of wine, but others are owed hundreds of thousands, with one individual saying they spent $200,000 on wine they now can’t access.
Three days before Underground Cellar filed for bankruptcy, Erik Jensen filed a lawsuit against the company alleging fraud and claiming to have nearly $3,000 worth of wine he cannot retrieve.
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According to the company’s bankruptcy filing, customers ordered $2.7 million worth of wine that never even made it to the warehouse.
The nature of Underground Cellar’s downfall remains unclear. On its website, it names “recent market headwinds” and “inability to secure financing” in an “increasingly challenging capital market” as reasons for its decision to file for bankruptcy.
“I have over $3k worth of wine in their cellar. What a scam. How can this be legal? I’ve tried calling and emailing and haven’t heard anything,” wrote one user in a Reddit thread discussing the Underground Cellar shutdown.
Despite reporting more than $20 million in revenue last year, Underground Cellar now has only $100,000 in cash and $328,000 in invoices owed, according to bankruptcy documents, per The San Francisco Chronicle. Additionally, the company lists physical assets worth less than $35,000.
“It’s laughable that this entire company, that’s all they say they have in assets,” Bradley Coppella, who said he spent more than $15,000 on wine with the company, told the outlet.
Entrepreneur has reached out to Underground Cellar for comment.
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