Gino LoPinto wasn’t sure what to expect when E11even Miami began accepting cryptocurrency payments in April.
LoPinto, an operating partner at the downtown Miami nightclub, said E11even’s management team had discussed the possibility for months after seeing the city gain national attention for its burgeoning tech sector. Once the Bitcoin 2021 conference announced it would move to Miami from Los Angeles, the nightclub’s leadership decided to take action.
“We’ve been in this game for a long time, and we like to be ahead of the curve,” LoPinto said. “We decided to get everything aligned to become the first major nightclub in the U.S. to accept crypto payments.”
And it paid off. LoPinto said E11even has processed more than seven figures’ worth of cryptocurrency payments since April, including multiple six-figure nights during the recent Bitcoin 2021 conference, an event that was billed as the world’s-largest cryptocurrency event of its kind.
E11even isn’t alone. A growing number of South Florida businesses are accepting cryptocurrency payments to win new customers. This month the developers of the Arte by Antonio Citterio condominium made headlines after they sold a unit for $22.5 million in crypto, one of the largest real estate purchases made with a digital currency.
Advocates say cryptocurrency, a digital asset that is not tied to a central bank or government, offers lower transaction fees and more user security than traditional banking services. That decentralized structure theoretically protects cryptocurrencies from government interference or manipulation. Bitcoin, the first decentralized cryptocurrency, was created in 2009.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a technology industry champion, has recruited several cryptocurrency businesses to the city in his quest to make it the crypto capital of the world.
Suarez’s campaign encouraged Miami-based Menin Hospitality to get on board with cryptocurrency, Managing Partner Jared Galbut said. The company, which operates hotels including the Shelbourne South Beach and eateries such as Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, began accepting Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Dogecoin payments to coincide with the Bitcoin 2021 conference.
So far, customers have primarily used cryptocurrency to pay for pricier transactions like bottle service, Galbut said.
“I think it’s going to take time for it to become a common currency for payments,” he said. “Right now, most people holding Bitcoin aren’t using it to pay for tacos.”
But that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually do it, Galbut added, pointing to El Salvador’s recent move to adopt Bitcoin as an official currency. It may take time, but he expects more Miami residents and tourists will demand the option to pay with digital currencies in the months and years ahead.
E11even’s LoPinto said there’s an opportunity for businesses that become early cryptocurrency adopters. Right now, holders have few options for those assets: They can either keep it, sell it or use it for purchases where possible.
“Aside from some large corporations, there aren’t a lot of places where you can [pay with cryptocurrency],” he said. “For people holding onto very large crypto wallets, this is an easy transaction.”
LoPinto said E11even continues to process cryptocurrency transactions on an almost-daily basis. Customers primarily use the currency to prebook tables at the club, which start at about $1,000. The club, he said, accepts the payment through a processor that converts cryptocurrency to dollars.
“I think crypto will eventually become one of our main currencies as more tech companies move here,” LoPinto added. “The days of Miami being a city for snowbirds are over.”
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