Nina Compton and her business partner and husband Larry Miller are working on their third New Orleans restaurant — an NFT cocktail club and lounge backed by a slew of other celebrity chefs from around the country.
Compton and Miller are partnering with chefs Stephanie Izard, Marc Forgione, Michelle Bernstein, Rodney Scott, and Tiffani Faison for the forthcoming ShaSha Lounge: Social Aid and Pleasure Club, set to open sometime in 2023. Memberships will be sold as NFTs, with members “unlocking” access to the club and special events.
It’s the latest in a wave of NFT restaurants, or perhaps, more accurately, plans for NFT restaurants — private, membership-based restaurants and clubs that involve purchasing a record on the blockchain, a web of decentralized digital ledgers where cryptocurrency transactions are recorded. What differentiates ShaSha Lounge from other NFT restaurants, the group says, is that a portion of membership and lounge sales will be “reserved to help support future disaster relief in the region.”
Compton, one of New Orleans’s most acclaimed chefs, tells Eater she and Miller came up with the idea earlier this summer while “discussing ways to help continually fund nonprofit organizations focused on disaster relief” rather than respond by fundraising after the fact. Their restaurant management and marketing companies, both of which had already been pursuing other “web3” projects — web3 being the idea for a decentralized, token-based internet — encouraged them to use blockchain technology to realize their funding goals, Compton says. The chef tells Eater the group is in the process of identifying disaster relief and charitable organizations “already embedded” in the Gulf Coast region as potential partners.
Compton and Miller, who own Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro, are still deciding on a location for ShaSha Lounge, but plans include a bar, lounge, and private spaces for events, tastings, and cocktail classes. The other chef-partners will collaborate quarterly on new cocktails at the club and visit on occasion to host onsite classes, in addition to virtual ones. They’ll also “individually program the club for one week each year,” according to the press release. Live music is another part of the plan, and food will consist of “light bites” created by Compton.
The club’s name is a reference to New Orleans’s Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. Though perhaps Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is the best known nationally, there are dozens in the city, between around 45 and 70, and they are some of New Orleans’s longest-standing organizations. These clubs grew out of groups in the 1800s called benevolent societies, created by free Creoles of color (or Afro Creoles). Members paid dues to the organization, which helped cover funeral and other health care expenses for members and their families. They also had a social component, and to this day they perform charitable works and hold their own second-line parades throughout the year.
A representative for the restaurant said financial specifics like membership prices and the percentage of sales directed to relief funds are still being figured out, as is the specific blockchain it will use. Members will be allowed to sell or rent their membership NFTs to others, Miller says.
By creating a member-based cocktail club, “we are developing a new level of access and allure in the industry,” says Miller.