SAN DIEGO — Whiskers & Wine has been promoted as the first full-service cat lounge, bar and restaurant in America.

Owner Nicole Smith said her vision was to build a place for the community to gather, while having food and drinks, surrounded by adoptable cats. With specialty cocktails like Jaz’s Pearfect Meowtini, Nick’s Whiskey Meower and the Peach Pussycat, the space is dedicated to felines down to the decor and the rooftop lounge where cats can catch some sun.

A career in the corporate world gave Smith the grit to plan her first restaurant and rescue amid a global pandemic.

“I just had a realization that life was really too short and my passion has always been animals, specifically cats,” Smith said.

The cats come from Saving One Life, an animal rescue group dedicated to giving shelter and medical care to stray, abandoned and surrendered felines until they find permanent adoptive homes.

Brianne Youngberg helped establish the San Diego chapter of the rescue and says there’s an adoption application so people can’t get tipsy and take a kitty home the same day. She believes Whiskers and Wine will help save countless lives.

“The opportunity for us to save more lives because this is potentially — with the kitties that we have here right now — that’s five foster homes that now have new kitties that we’re able to help off the streets, so we can save even more,” Youngberg said.  

All the food and drinks are prepared behind glass, and there is a separate area where guests can watch the cats separately, but almost everyone enjoys the up-close company of cats.

Nick and Vanessa Brock snuck away from their cats at home for a date night.  

“We just can’t stop staring at these adorable cats that are tucked into every nook and cranny of this building!” Vanessa said.

“Hanging out with cats and having a couple of drinks is what I like to do at home, so being able to do that out here and feel like I actually got out of the house,” Nick said.

Smith believes the cats are helping her customers while they wait for their new homes, which is why she calls their reservations “cat therapy sessions.”

“We’d love to save thousands of cats’ lives,” she said. “I mean, we’re pulling from a lot of the high-kill cat shelters so we can help support and save all the babies and make sure that they’re spayed, neutered, chipped and are taken care of and find their forever home.”

It costs $30 to reserve your cat therapy session and you can spend 90 minutes hanging out with the cats while enjoying food and drinks.