Recreational ax-throwing and 3.2 beer will be allowed to mix at a new Salt Lake City business, even though members of the state liquor commission say it could be a recipe for disaster — or at least severe injuries.
“I’m having a hard time getting my mind around alcohol and axes together,” said commissioner Neal Berube. “We are focused on safety first and foremost and don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Despite the concerns, the liquor commission on Tuesday voted 5-1 to give Social Axe Throwing a recreational beer license. The commission asked the company to return in six months and report on any safety issues or underage drinking problems.
“On one hand, we want to do what we can to allow people to engage in recreational activities,” said commissioner Thomas Jacobson. But Social Axe is the first Utah business of its kind to get a liquor license, and “it’s unknown territory and we want to maintain oversight.”
Salt Lake Social Axe Throwing, 1154 S. 300 West, is one of four ax-throwing venues along the Wasatch Front, including Axe Arena in Murray, True North Axe in Lehi, and another Social Axe Throwing location in Ogden.
Now that Social Axe Throwing has been granted a license, the commission expects others to follow.
Bowling alleys, golf courses and tennis clubs are the typical businesses that request a recreational beer license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
To get the license, Social Axe co-owner Mark Floyd had to convince the board that the company was “substantially similar” to those activities.
“Social Axe is a recreational amenity almost identical to a bowling alley,” he said, except customers throw axes at a wooden target.
Individuals or groups rent ax-throwing lanes, he said, and, much like darts, the score is determined by how close the ax comes to the bull’s-eye. Customers pay $15 per person for one hour. Groups of six or more pay $30 per person for a two-hour block.
Safety is the top priority, too, Floyd explained. The lanes are separated by chain-link fencing, and the seating area where customers wait their turn is separated from the throwing area by a 9-foot buffer.
Unlike bowling alleys, his company also hires coaches — one for every 16 customers — who monitor the lanes, teach customers how to throw, and ensure safety rules are followed.
While the activity is open to those 15 and older, anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent. Customers also must wear closed-toed shoes. No flip-flops allowed.
With the liquor license, Floyd said the company will scan IDs at the door and minors will be required to wear a wristband, signaling that they cannot buy or consume alcohol.
Still, the board was confused that ax-throwing was even a thing.
“People actually do this, huh?” asked commission chairman John T. Nielsen.
Floyd, who co-owns the business with his son, Brayden Floyd, and Steve Lister, opened their first shop in Ogden in 2017. At that time, it was one of about 15 ax-throwing businesses in the country.
Since then, ax-throwing establishments have opened in most major metropolitan cities from Denver and Las Vegas to Philadelphia, he said. Many of those serve beer, wine and spirits — without any injuries or lawsuits, Floyd said.
“There are venues where you can get a shot of whiskey and throw an ax at the same time,” Floyd said. “But I don’t want a full liquor license. I’m just looking for a recreational license.” In fact, Floyd said he plans to only serve 3.2 beer in cans.
The Social Axe partners did not apply for a liquor license for their Ogden venue because it is too close to a Mormon temple.