When star NFL quarterbacks retire, from John Elway and Peyton Manning to Brett Favre and Vince Young, they seem to have a formulaic exit strategy: Open a steakhouse. But Cam Newton marches to a different drummer, and while he certainly is a star quarterback, the starter for the Carolina Panthers is not retired. Plus, he is not a steakhouse guy. In fact, he is a vegan. But he does love cigars.
So, Newton and his brother C.J., also a cigar enthusiast, decided to open a statement cigar lounge. They dreamt of it for years, and while they searched out the perfect site in the Newtons’ hometown of Atlanta, they spent several seasons hitting the best cigar lounges in NFL cities they visited, amassing a laundry list of likes and dislikes, and then methodically set about building their perfect lounge, Fellaship.
“The ambiance is important,” said Cam. “If you close your eyes and take a mental snapshot of what you liked and what your remembered, that’s what I wanted to capture.” Fittingly, Fellaship debuted with a soft, albeit jam-packed and star-studded opening for 2019’s Super Bowl LIII, held down the street at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I am a Bourbon drinker, and Cam introduced me to cigars,” said C.J. “He doesn’t drink, but all of these prominent athletes like Michael Jordan and Ray Lewis enjoy cigars and that made an impression. In fact, his first cigar was a gift from [Jordan].” That was several years ago, and today Cam calls cigars his “therapeutic refuge.”
With its valet parking stand, velvet rope outside and business casual dress code (except for team gear on game days), Fellaship looks like a nightclub from the street. Inside, though, it is an upscale, contemporary bar with plenty of light, art and color, especially blue, the lucky favorite choice of the Newton clan. There are blue leather banquettes, fancy blue wallpaper, even blue throw pillows on the inviting brown leather couches.
Fellaship is two stories with towering ceilings and a half-floor loft hosting a second bar for the VIP and members area. It is full of original works by local artists, and the main floor is broken into different living room-like spaces, with one wall full of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, complete with rolling library ladder and fireplace.
At the far end of the ground floor entrance is the bar, with floor-to-ceiling racks containing a vast library of whiskies, mainly Bourbons. These are curated by C.J., who notes, “We have a good whiskey list and a good wine list, but if you are looking to do Tequila shots, you are in the wrong place.”
“Smoking cigars is an old tradition, and at Fellaship we’re just trying to modernize that, with a nice ambiance and adding things like live music,” said Cam. “Everything you see here, from top to bottom, it’s either me or my brother.”
That includes the menu, as Fellaship has an excellent chef and full kitchen, making it equal parts restaurant, bar and cigar lounge. While these days Newton’s taste leans towards the flash fried cauliflower, there are plenty of meatier options such as steaks, chops and lobster tails.
The bar is topped with zinc, a feature the siblings noted in a favorite cigar haunt, and lit with globe lamps inspired by a New York speakeasy. The walls around it are adorned with classic black-and-white photos, most notably of Muhammad Ali.
The whole place is stylish and carefully put together, and while not quite feminine, the brothers seem to have no problems attracting women smokers. At times the women outnumber their male counterparts here, often seen in groups of two, three and four sitting at the bar, enjoying cocktails and smokes.
The walk-in humidor in the back is always stocked with smokes from Cigar Aficionado’s 25 Top 25 lists, as well as less common offerings such as GTO’s Don Emilio (owned by a local doctor) and a private label Fellaship house cigar rolled with Connecticut wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. During the Super Bowl they gave one to each guest in the crowded space.
There are close to one hundred cigar selections, including Fuente Fuente Opus X Lost City Piramide and numerous choices from popular brands such as Liga Privada, Ashton, AVO, Padrón and two of Cam Newton’s personal favorites, Davidoff and Montecristo.
It’s a very impressive launch—welcoming, escapist and upscale without being pretentious; a perfect spot for business travelers visiting the city.
As C.J. correctly noted, “There are a lot of nice places around the country, but most places this nice you can’t eat, drink and smoke. Here you can.”
110 Centennial Olympic Park Drive
Atlanta, GA 30313
Open Wednesday and Thursday: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Sunday: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.