Hatchets and beer might seem like a risky combo, but Krista Poll assures that her axe-throwing bar isn’t as dangerous as some might think.
“The most serious injury our guests have had in more than a year of operations is a splinter,” she says. “Safety is our first priority.”
Poll, along with her husband Matt Paton, and friends Stuart Jones and Shaun Hurley, brought the popular Canadian sport stateside last year, when they launched the Urban Axes flagship in Philadelphia. They opened a second location in Austin, Texas in September, and are now preparing to debut a Baltimore iteration in Highlandtown this February.
“We really like the history of Highlandtown, and the juxtaposition of the old industrial buildings with the residential,” Poll says. “We’re looking forward to being a part of the community.”
The 10,235-square-foot space on North Haven Street will be a destination for competitive axe-throwing with six arenas (similar to batting cages with fencing in between throwers) and a total of 24 targets. The mission behind Urban Axes is to bring the typically rural sport into urban areas—something that Poll experienced firsthand while living in Toronto three years ago.
“I had just moved there for work, and I got invited to a friend’s birthday party at a BYOB axe-throwing place,” she recalls. “My immediate reaction was, ‘This is awesome, why don’t we have this in America?’”
While the other two locations are BYOB, the new Highlandtown hangout will be the first with its own liquor license. Though menu details are still in the works, Poll says that the spot will offer an array of wines and local beers. (Here’s hoping a few will come from neighboring Monument City Brewing Company.)
“It’s safe to say that all of the owners are passionate about beer and wine,” says Poll, who just so happens to be a certified sommelier. “People at Urban Axes will not go thirsty.”
In keeping with the emphasis on safety, alcohol will be limited to specific viewing areas that are a secure distance away from the targets.
As far as logistics go, the bar will have walk-in hours, as well as a reservation system for booking large groups. Though she understands that some might be skeptical at first, Poll is eager about encouraging beginners.
“Axe-throwing is a non-exclusive sport—anyone can do it,” she says, mentioning that every session begins with one-on-one coaching. “Almost everyone that comes through our doors has never thrown an axe before. The technique is actually pretty simple. We want to make sure everyone is throwing safely and comfortably before the competition begins.”
The game itself, which most play tournament-style, pits two players against one another to see who can throw the hatchet closest to a bullseye. Not surprisingly, every competitor must be over 21 and sign a waiver before participating.
Aside from bringing a new social concept to the Baltimore community, the co-owners are enthusiastic about their role in making axe-throwing more mainstream. Their hope is to launch seven more U.S. locations by the end of 2018.
“We always joke that the first axe was thrown about 30 seconds after the first axe was created,” she says. “We’ve just taken something that people have been doing for years in more rural areas or while camping and brought it into an urban environment—with a competitive spin. Once people stick their first axe in the target, they’re hooked.”