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Durham, NC /

Sean Umstead is the co-owner and beverage director of beloved downtown Durham establishments Kingfisher, Queeny’s, and Queenburger, known for their cocktails, creativity, and community. He and business partner Michelle Vanderwalker opened Kingfisher, the James Beard–nominated produce-driven cocktail bar, in 2019, neighborhood restaurant and bar Queeny’s in 2021, and Queenburger for ballpark-adjacent smash burgers in 2022.

Kingfisher draws inspiration from North Carolina’s farms, offering a rare, year-long view into each season through its innovative cocktail program. The James Beard Foundation named Kingfisher a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar in 2023, and Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards recognized it as a Best New Cocktail Bar East honoree. Imbibe Magazine named Sean to their annual “Imbibe 75” list in 2019, and his beverage expertise has also been recognized nationally by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, PUNCH, Vinepair, and Garden & Gun, among others.

Sean is a veteran of North Carolina’s hospitality culture, serving on the Triangle’s most dynamic food and beverage teams over the last decade. Prior to opening Kingfisher, he was the General Manager of St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar in downtown Raleigh, responsible for service and the bar program. Before that, he designed, opened, and managed the cutting-edge bar program at The Counting House in the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham in 2015, and served as Bar Manager at The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

Sean has guest bartended at bars down the East Coast – from Grand Army Bar in Brooklyn to Edmund’s Oast in Charleston.