SAN DIEGO — Calling all cat lovers and cabernet lovers: this San Diego lounge might just be purrr-fect for you.
Right at the edge of North Park on Adams Avenue, Whiskers & Wine, a cat lounge and restaurant, brings together kitties and casual drinking, offering guests the ability to sip on wine or cocktails while petting adorable felines.
“We used to call it cat therapy sessions,” owner Nicole Smith said to FOX5SanDiego.com. “People leave here and they’re like ‘oh my gosh.’ You can see the big smile on their face.”
Smith and her husband decided to open up Whiskers & Wine after a trip to Charleston about six years ago. While they were there, the two came across a popular cat cafe in the area, Pounce Cat Cafe.
Like most cat cafes, Pounce Cat offers coffee, tea and pastries to guests looking to make some feline friends. But what struck Smith – and ultimately inspired her to open Whiskers & Wine following over 22 years in corporate America – was that they also served beer and wine.
“I was like, ‘that is what I want to do,’” she said. “Immediately after we got home from that trip, we started working on a business plan.”
The lounge opened up in North Park last year, after nearly five years of planning and development – becoming San Diego’s first, fully liquor licensed locale that allows guests to grab a drink and hang out with cats and kittens.
Aside from providing guests a paws-itive experience with adorable felines, Whiskers & Wine strives to help the cats it houses find their forever homes.
All of the kitties at Whiskers & Wine come to the locale through a local animal rescue, Saving One Life. The rescue is a volunteer-run, never-kill sanctuary for cats and dogs that are abandoned or at-risk of euthanasia.
For Smith, the environment that Whiskers & Wine provides for the kitties allows them a healthy space to acclimate to social interaction, all while providing them the chance to develop relationships with a human that might become their family.
“(Here) they live cage free…they have their own little kitty staircase up to the second floor ‘catio,’” Smith said. “This is providing an all-around healthier environment for the kitties.”
Since the opening of Whiskers & Wine back in August, Smith said that about 82 kitties have been adopted through their partner.
While they don’t offer on the spot adoption, almost all of the kitties that found homes have been with former guests of the lounge who connected with one of the felines during their visit.
“Obviously, if people are having cocktails or wine, they’re going to want to adopt all the kitties,” Smith said.
In addition to serving drinks and food during their normal hours, Whiskers & Wine hosts community events with the adorable felines, including cat yoga on the weekends and local artist mixers.
The weekend before Valentine’s Day they’ll be hosting a Kendra Scott pop-up and liquor tasting event, featuring a San Diego-based rum distiller, Clever Fox.
“We’re in a wonderful neighborhood that has a lot of small businesses,” Smith said. “So we try to be very community based.”
While this might just be the only cat hang out with a full bar, Smith says that there’s something for everyone, whether you’re there for the drinks, the food or the feline friends.
“(Whiskers & Wine) is unique,” Smith said. “I don’t think there’s any place like this.”