SALT LAKE CITY — Ax throwing and beer drinking seemingly don't pair well.
But despite concerns about those two activities intersecting, the state alcohol commission Tuesday granted a license to an ax-throwing venue to serve beer.
Social Axe, which opened in Ogden a year ago and in Salt Lake City a month ago, became the first establishment in Utah where it's OK to hurl a sharp blade attached to a wooden handle at a target while downing a cold brew, following a popular trend across the country.
"I'm having a hard time getting my mind around alcohol and axes together," Commissioner Neal Berube said before voting in favor of issuing the permit.
Commissioner Kathleen Collinwood, the lone dissenter in the 6-1 vote, called mixing axes and alcohol "counterintuitive."
The Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission had lots of questions for Social Axe co-owner Mark Floyd, including how he would monitor overconsumption, guard against underage drinking and store the axes.
Floyd described his business as "almost identical" to a bowling alley.
"It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of release that happens with it," he said.
Ax-throwing bars are popping up around the country, including some where "you can get a shot of whiskey and throw an ax at the same time. That’s not what I am asking for," Floyd told the commission.
Customers would have to provide identification to show they are 21 and be issued a wristband to be able to order a beer, which would be served in cans and limited to three per person, he said. Also, he said each throwing lane has a coach who has undergone Utah alcohol server training. Each coach keeps track of up to 16 people.
Floyd told the commission he wants the license to attract more customers and that some patrons have expressed wanting to have a beer while throwing axes.
A chain-link fence separates each throwing lane and only one ax is used per lane. Axes are thrown at a wooden target. Coaches provide a safety briefing, oversee throwing games and keep score, he said. Participants could expect to throw 90 to 120 times in a one- to two-hour session.
"It's more of a sport we want you to come and enjoy along with an ice-cold beer," Floyd said.5 comments on this story
Utah law doesn't specifically identify ax throwing as an activity allowed under its "on-premise beer recreational amenity license."
But Nina McDermott, director of alcohol compliance and licensing enforcement, said though "at first blush it could be a little alarming," it qualifies because it is "substantially similar" to a bowling alley or golf driving range.
The commission approved the beer permit with the condition Floyd report back in six months. McDermott said the commission, however, could not review whether to take back the license at that time unless there was an alleged violation.