By Connor Dziawura
A common complaint Larry Foppe has heard from locals in Carefree is that a laidback gathering place was missing—the key word now being “was.”
So, he took his local cigar shop, moved it and rebranded it as Sticks Golf & Cigar Lounge. Located off Cave Creek Road and Tom Darlington Drive, the new venue is like Topgolf mixed with a cigar lounge, but with a country club feel.
“The one thing I commonly hear from the locals is there’s just no local place where you can bring some friends, sit down, have a drink and it’s not loud, you’re not dealing with drunken cowboys, etc.,” Foppe says of the facility’s lounge aspect.
“People are starved for entertainment, especially with the coronavirus. They’re just dying to get out and do something,” he added of the second element.
“So we said let’s take the cigars (and) put in a bar, which always helps. There’s a lot of cigar lounges out there, and so we wanted to be different. And the way to differentiate ourselves was basically put in the entertainment.”
Keeping with the cigar lounge feel, the venue has a walk-in, glass-cased, cedar cigar humidor stocked with more than a thousand brands of cigars. Smokers will find the likes of Padron, Daniel Marshall, Ashton, Arturo Fuente, Paul Garmirian, Alec Bradley, AVO, Rocky Patel, Montecristo and Oliva. Foppe calls it “high end.”
“We deal with premium cigars, so if you’re looking for a $5 cigar, you’re probably not going to find it here,” he says.
The lounge area includes leather chairs, TVs, and a bar serving beer and wine. There are several outdoor patios at Sticks, too.
“Everybody up here belongs to country clubs,” he says. “It’s like the club away from the country club, and that’s the environment we want. It’s the second country club. So, you bring your guests up and feel like you’re sitting at the country club but in a cool environment.”
As for entertainment, Sticks uses indoor Full Swing simulators, which Foppe says have been endorsed by golf pros like Tiger Woods and Jason Day. In addition to featuring numerous renowned courses on which players can practice their skills, the simulators can provide lessons from instructors. Other games are also included, like soccer, football, baseball, lacrosse and a laser shooting gallery. There will be golf leagues, too.
“My wife and I are addicted to zombie dodgeball, which is a great aerobic workout, by the way,” Foppe says.
Although a visit to the venue’s website yields a 21-and-over warning for access, Foppe says the gaming room is a separate suite from the cigar lounge and doesn’t allow smoking, so youths are allowed to use the sports simulators. One of the patios will also be nonsmoking, he says.
“What we’re trying to do is create a neighborhood gathering place. That’s kind of the best way to say it,” Foppe says. “We want you to come in and see your neighbors here, bring your friends in, not be intimidated, and be able to sit and have a drink or a smoke and have a nice conversation.
“Or, if you want entertainment, we’ve got a whole separate golf room—called the Golf Room—with the simulator in it,” he continues. “And if you’re not a golfer—most people up here have guns and shoot—it’s actually got a laser shooting range in it also.”
While the simulators can be rented hourly, various memberships for the more-involved guests are a large part of Sticks’ business model. Daily, monthly or annual golf practice passes allow 24/7 access to the simulators, and there are two types of rentable humidified cigar lockers, which include different benefits. Corporate, individual and seasonal memberships will allow 24/7 access to an additional private lounge upon its opening in October, among other perks. Applications are available online.
Foppe described the private lounge as two rooms—one designed like a library, the other like a poker room—a wet bar with mixers, and separate cigar and spirit lockers. A BYOB license allows members to bring their own spirits to the private lounge, he says. There’s even a private patio and putting green, as well as additional TVs, a restroom and an office.
“If you want to entertain your client, you can come up here at 9, 10 o’clock at night, go in the lounge, have a drink, you’ve got your own liquor there, the bar’s there for you,” he says. “It’s a very unique concept. There’s nothing like it in Arizona, quite frankly.”
All in all, the goal at Sticks, according to Foppe, is to be “the neighborhood Cheers.”
Foppe feels the location is perfect for hosting events, and he says the venue will play host to live background musicians. The venue is available for private booking, and while Sticks itself doesn’t serve food, it can help accommodate catering for private parties.
“We can do so many things with this location. It’s a beautiful corner location,” he explains. “We have two patios, and they’re elevated patios, so the view of the mountains is spectacular. We sit out every night and watch the sunset, my wife and I. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And it’s right on Cave Creek Highway, so the visibility is very high.”
And with the economy reopening but COVID-19 cases still rising, Foppe revealed Sticks is ensuring it remains compatible with social distancing and masks, segueing onto the subject of its ventilation system for the cigar smoke.
“Our employees are wearing masks, we’ve put half the number of chairs in the lounge that we intend to have, and the funny thing is we have two smoke eaters in the main lounge, and the smoke eaters are equipped with five filters, including a HEPA filter and then a carbon filter at the end,” he explained, admitting he feels he “over designed” the ventilation. “The entire volume of our lounge, the air volume, is exchanged 12 times per hour.
“It’s probably the cleanest air you can breathe right now,” he adds with a laugh.