When British dance club impresario Joe Fournier first visited Scottsdale in 2007, he instantly fell in love with the city and its nightlife.
"I was fascinated with the Scottsdale, with its contrast of old and new," he says. "I had one of the best nights of my life here and kept coming back."
The 29-year-old London native became so twitterpated with Scottsdale that he decided to give the city one of its flashiest nightspots ever, the newly opened EPIQ.
This past weekend, Fournier held the soft opening of the ultra-glitzy danceteria and libations haven, which is located in the Saddlebag Trail property that formerly housed Pussycat Lounge and - quite frankly - is one of the most unique-looking nightlife establishments in Old Town, if not the entire Valley.
Stand in the middle of its oft-crowded dance floor at EPIQ (pronounced "epic") and it feels like you're literally inside of a ginormous disco fantasy. Large mirrors cover every inch of the ceiling and all four walls, which are separated by a crisscrossing lattice of more than 3,000 LED lights that blaze away and accentuate the beats laid down by the DJ.
There are also three tiers of VIP booths that rise up on either side of the dance floor, which are typically packed with revelers popping bottles and partying away with hedonistic abandon.
Fournier, who is EPIQ's majority owner, sports a fairly impressive pedigree in London's bar and club scene, including his partnership and involvement with such celebrity-friendly hotspots as The Rose Club and Whiskey Mist. He wanted to add something new and unique to Old Town's nightlife milieu, Fournier says, after becoming a regular visitor to Scottsdale.
"I used to come on vacation here a lot because I loved this city so much. I felt as though there was a gap in the market in Scottsdale to take something that's perhaps a bit higher quality, spend a bit more money, and create something special," he says. "I wanted to build a club that I would encounter in London or New York or L.A., but put it in Old Town. I felt like the people of Scottsdale deserved something really special."
While visiting Arizona last December, Fournier purchased Saddlebag Trail club Pussycat Lounge from its longtime owner Ryan Jocque.
"PCL was the first club in I visited when I first came to Scottsdale years ago, so it was special to me personally because I had one of the greatest nights ever," Fournier says. "Last year, I met with [Jocque] and he very kindly sold me the business."
Fournier kept Pussycat Lounge open for an additional six months while he formulated the concept and design for his new club. After PCL closed in June, a 12-week renovation process completely transformed the interior of the property and gave it a completely new look and floor plan. Gone is any portion of its previous identity, which was swept away in favor of a snazzy new setup (created by London-based interior designer Kelsey Elliott of KLB International) that also incorporates elements from a posh polo club.
"I wanted to keep a bit of the Scottsdale heritage with cowboys and such, but with a British twinge," Fournier says. "So I thought, 'What do England and Scottsdale have in common?' And I found that horses were a common theme for both, because cowboys obviously had horses and in England we love polo. So it's a mixture of a British polo club with this sort of futuristic dance club."
As such, he says, EPIQ's design includes "lots of checkered marble, fleur-de-lis everywhere, and this really thick oak wood bar." The equine theme extends to the VIP booths, which are all in the shape of horseshoes, and club's female waitstaff and go-go dancers, who are clad in sexy versions of horseracing jodhpurs or wield riding crops.
It seems especially fortuitous that a polo-inspired high-end nightclub is making its debut around the Scottsdale Polo Championships, which Fournier says was "a nice coincidence."
While Fournier doesn't drop dime on the exact cost of rebooting PCL into EPIQ, he referred to it as "an expensive project" and estimates that the lighting and other dance club elements alone cost a couple million dollars. That includes installing a high-end Funktion One sound system, a hallmark of such ritzy clubs as the renowned Marquee in Las Vegas.
"It the Rolls-Royce of sound systems," Fournier says. "David Guetta played for me in London at The Rose Club simply because we had the Funktion One system there."
Despite name-checking a Grammy-nominated superstar DJ, bragging that EPIQ will be the only dance club in the Valley to boast a Funktion One, and the flashy nature of his establishment, Fournier tended to be mostly humble when discussing his establishment with Jackalope Ranch and showed off plenty of the usual British modesty.
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For instance, when discussing EPIQ's exterior, which has yet to be completed, he says it will be "nothing too fancy" and will be something along the lines of a "futuristic façade for the building with some clever lighting elements."
"It's something where I don't want to detract from the rest of the bars on [Saddlebag Trail]," Fournier says. "I want us to sort of be a part of the scene and want us to be accepted by the community. It's really important to me. I fell that I've had such an amazing time here so I want to do what I'm doing but be a part of the grand scheme of the regeneration of Old Town."