When the recreational ax-throwing space Kraken Axes opened in D.C.'s Park View neighborhood in late 2017, it marked the arrival of a new trend in the city.
Inspired by a Canadian sport, venues like Kraken offer visitors a place to gather 'round and hurl metal tools.
In the latest development, D.C.'s ax-throwing venues are getting an addition: alcohol. Kraken is the first of the spaces to receive approval for a liquor license, and at least two other ax-throwing spaces plan to sell alcohol within the next year.
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So what will you find there? Think dart throwing, but with axs and beer.
“Why wouldn’t you want to open a bar with ax throwing?” Kraken owner Steuart Martens told WAMU in January.
Since Kraken opened its first location at 3400 Georgia Ave, NW, the ax-throwing trend has captured the attention of Washingtonians, who previously had to venture to Maryland’s Renaissance Fair for a chance to fling an ax.
Canada-based Bad Axe Throwing, which opened its first D.C. location last year at 2419 Evarts St. NE, has indicated it plans to apply for a liquor license, while Brooklyn-based Kick Axe Throwing plans to open a location in Northeast D.C. in about May 2019 and has already secured a license, according to owner Ginger Flesher-Sonnier.
Flesher-Sonnier, owner of Escape Room Live in Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria, said Kick Axe already sells alcohol at its Brooklyn location and secured its liquor license with the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board earlier this year.
“It’s a completely different experience,” Flesher-Sonnier said about selling wine and beer at Kick Axe. “It’s not going to be just throw axs and leave. You can come in and have a drink by the fireplace with friends.”
The Kick Axe location in New York has a wooden lodge aesthetic, complete with mounted moose heads and plaid couches.
As for safety at these venues, the owners said there's nothing to worry about.
All three companies advertise their safety protocols, including having staff specially trained to ensure the booze-hatchet mix doesn't result in chaos. At all three venues, coaches join guests before the hatchet-hurling begins, to lead them through tutorials and teach them how to throw axs safely.
Guests must be sober to participate in ax throwing at Kick Axe venues, and staff are trained to handle situations if someone arrives intoxicated, Flesher-Sonnier said. The bar areas are separated from the ax-throwing space.
During a presentation before the D.C. alcohol board, Flesher-Sonnier elaborated on safety specifics, including the minimum height of side walls for ax-throwing lanes, the kind of screening and fencing behind the target, and the level of supervision required at each lane.
“There are only two people allowed into the lane in addition to the ‘axe-pert’ ... at any given time,” Flesher-Sonnier said. “And you are never allowed to hand off axs to each other. They have to be put into the stump before you leave, and then the next group comes in and grabs them out of the stump.”
Flesher-Sonnier also said her business will follow guidelines from the National Axe Throwing Federation and The World Axe-Throwing League, two international bodies that organize competitive ax throwing.
When alcohol board members stated their concerns over potential injuries once alcohol is introduced, Flesher-Sonnier said stringent rules limit danger.
“The biggest injury was somebody dropping an ax on their foot,” she said in testimony. “And breaking a toe. That was the worst, and it has been years.”
Mario Zelaya, the president and CEO of Bad Axe Throwing, echoed this perspective in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I think some people think of us as these crazy Canadians bringing our axes down to the U.S. and throwing them around, and they're like, 'That's so dangerous!' But you know what? You guys carry guns, and I don't know a single person in Canada who owns a gun," Zelaya said. "Really, it's not as crazy as it seems."