Bisbee Royale, the hugely anticipated nightclub set in a turn-of-last-century church, will open in two weeks without its chief architect and top cheerleader.

Doug Biggers has stepped down from the $1 million project that he spearheaded for the past 18 months. Biggers envisioned the project as a key cultural center for Bisbee, attracting regional and local acts performing in an intimate setting.

In a written statement, Biggers said he was resigning to devote more time to his family in Tucson. Biggers, the father of 13- and 15-year-old boys, had been commuting between Bisbee and Tucson over the past year as he and a handful of financial partners worked on the project. In late December, Biggers resigned his executive director job of the Rialto Theatre to focus full-time on the Bisbee project.

"But after seven months of intensive effort on what turned out to be a nearly $1 million renovation, it became clear to me that I could not sustain a situation that required me to live in Tucson and commute to Bisbee a substantial portion of each week," Biggers said in the statement he released Tuesday evening. "So, regrettably, I am leaving the launch and further development of The Royale in the capable hands of my erstwhile Bisbee colleagues. I wish The Royale success and have much fondness for the town and its residents."

Biggers would not comment further when contacted by phone and email, except to say that his departure was amicable.

Bisbee Royale General Manager Shawnee Hicks used the same term when he spoke of the split.

"I love Doug Biggers with all my heart and I'm pretty freaked out about trying to pull this off without him. But his family has to come first," Hicks said Wednesday.

Hicks, a veteran sound engineer and nine-year Bisbee resident, has worked with Biggers since March 2011, when Biggers conceived the idea of opening a nightclub in the Cochise County town. The pair set their sights on the 1918 building at 94 Main St. that had once housed the First Baptist Church of Bisbee and later the Old Bisbee Repertory Theater. With the help of investors, they bought the 8,000-square-foot building reportedly for $351,000 and set to work renovating it.

The renovations were far more extensive than they initially planned, Hicks said.

"We were very unrealistic about it," he said, noting that among the work they've done was to install new wiring and plumbing, make structural reinforcements and replacing the flooring. "Going into it, we weren't fully cognizant of how in-depth we would have to go. The project kept growing and growing, and I think that's one of the things that put a huge amount of stress on Doug. He realized it was going to take 24 hours a day to run this."

"I'm disappointed, of course, that I won't be able to realize the vision I had for the Bisbee Royale," Biggers said in his statement.

"But sometimes you have to recognize your limitations and call it a day. I'm sure I have another cool project or two in me down the road."

If you go

Bisbee Royale, 94 Main St., Bisbee, will open Aug. 2 with Cochise County Buzz and the Soul Senders. Tucson's Giant Giant Sand with Howe Gelb had been announced to headline the club Aug. 3, but that show has been canceled, said Bisbee Royale GM Shawnee Hicks. The club will host a number of live events with Bisbee artists as well as artists from Tucson and Phoenix. Hicks said he also hopes to land national touring acts. The club opens at 5 p.m. Aug. 2 and will be open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642