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 teaming up with chefs Stephanie Izard, Marc Forgione, Michelle Bernstein, Rodney Scott and Tiffani Faison for the upcoming 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 the purchase of a record on the blockchain, a web of decentralized digital ledgers where cryptocurrency transactions are recorded. What sets ShaSha Lounge apart from other NFT restaurants, the group says, is that a portion of membership and lounge sales “will be earmarked to support future disaster relief in the region.”
Compton, one of New Orleans’ most acclaimed chefs, tells Eater that she and Miller came up with the idea earlier this summer while “discussing ways to continually help fund nonprofits that focus on disaster relief” rather than reacting after the fact through fundraising. Their restaurant management and marketing companies, both of which were already pursuing other “web3” projects — web3 is the idea for a decentralized, token-based Internet — encouraged them to use blockchain technology to meet their funding goals, Compton says. The chef tells Eater the group is identifying disaster relief and charitable organizations that are “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 occasionally visit to offer on-site classes in addition to virtual classes. They will also “program the club individually 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’ Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. Although Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is perhaps the best known nationally, there are dozens in the city, between about 45 and 70, and they are among New Orleans’ longest-running organizations. These clubs grew out of groups in the 1800s called benevolent societies created by free colored Creoles (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 carry out charity works and hold their own second line parades throughout the year.
A representative for the restaurant said financial details such as membership prices and the percentage of sales going to relief funds are still being worked 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 members-based cocktail club, “we’re developing a new level of access and appeal in the industry,” says Miller.