Members of the 18-and-over crowd looking for late-night thrills won't be lining up outside of Afterlife in Scottsdale this weekend, or any other weekend. The Old Town all-ages and after-hours dance club closed for good within the last week, which means the underage partiers will have to look elsewhere.
Afterlife proprietor Aron Mezo told Jackalope Ranch that the closing was due to the fact that he wasn't able to broker a lease agreement with the new property owner, who had recently purchased the building that hosts the club. As a consequence, he was forced to pull the plug and vacate the premises.
"I would've liked to have finished out the month or maybe have a little closing party," he says, "But I basically was unable to strike a deal with the landlord."
Mezo says that the 5,000-square-foot property along Drinkwater Boulevard that has been the home for Afterlife and its predecessor e4 for eight years was sold earlier this month to Steve Cooper and Entertainment U.S.A., which also owns the Christie's Cabaret chain of strip clubs.
Talks between Mezo and his new landlords resulted in a potential six-month lease, which the club proprietor says he balked at due to the money involved. While he declined to state the specific amount, it was apparently too rich for his blood. (Calls to Cooper and Entertainment U.S.A. regarding comment on the matter were not immediately returned.)
"They were asking for a ridiculous amount of money to renew the lease for a six-month term. It was a lot of skin to put in the game for such a short amount of time," he says. "It just didn't make good financial sense since we're not selling liquor like the liquor boys [a.k.a. other clubs] do."
Afterlife was a bit of an anomaly in the Scottsdale nightlife due to the fact it was booze-free (and, thus, could operate as an all-ages and after-hours club). It was a situation that arose after e4, which originally opened in 2005 after much hype, lost its liquor license in December 2008 and had to shut down for several weeks. Mezo, one of the original partners in e4, remodeled and reopened it as Afterlife in early 2009, catering to the under-21 demographic. For several years, it seemingly was hosting costume and theme parties almost every weekend and offered such distractions as video games, hookah, blackjack, and bars stocked with energy drinks.
"It closed as essentially a failed club at the time, and I reopened it with no liquor license and made it successful at least for a few years," he says. "It was in the midst of the Scottsdale scene but it was kind of its own entity. We proved some people wrong by sticking around as long as we did."
Mezo adds that he's proud to have survived for more than four years in the often-competitive Old Town entertainment district, which frequently sees many establishments come and go.
"A Scottsdale club typically has a life of around three to five years, tops. Some don't even make it that long. EPIQ was open for less than a year and that's closed. There are a few exceptions and anomalies like Axis-Radius if you remodel and reconcept your place," he says. "If you look at virtually any of the bars and clubs that are in Scottsdale now, they weren't around four years ago."
It's sort of how Scottsdale's night scene operates, he says.
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"It's a fickle market and in it for the long haul like some club owners like Shawn [Yari of Triyar] and Les [Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group] are and you want to keep throwing millions of dollars at your place, that's great," Mezo says. "But most of the people do their thing and move on at some point."
He adds that he's unaware of what Cooper and Entertainment U.S.A.'s future plans for the property will involve. As for himself, Mezo says he will continue to operate as a nightlife events promoter and may also write a book about what he's "learned about dealing with all these millennials."
"It's been a learning experience," he says, "But I wouldn't necessarily recommend the nightclub industry to a friend."