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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 16, 2018

Blowing off steam

Ax-throwing bar opens in Iowa City with safety stressed
By Molly Hunter, The Gazette | Jul 24, 2018
Photo by: Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette Chris Kaufmann of Iowa City throws a hatchet at the wooden target during a team building exercise with Iota Motion at Hatchet Jack’s in Iowa City on Wednesday.

Getting axed takes on a whole new meaning at Hatchet Jack’s, an Iowa City bar where patrons can learn to throw an ax for fun.

Patrons are trained, taught games and are supervised by employees at Hatchet Jack’s, called “axperts.” The scoring system and several of the games are based on dart games.

Hatchet Jack’s, 101 Hwy. 1 West, is part of the World Axe Throwing League; co-founder Nick Carroll said he hopes to set up some leagues in Iowa City after Labor Day weekend.

Carroll said there is already been some interest in the leagues; groups of four are encouraged to email Hatchet Jack’s to book for the fall league.

“There’s a guy who’s fun to watch — he’s been in here three times already and we’ve only been open for 12 days. He just sits there and we don’t have to change any of the wing boards, just the centerboard (on the target).”

Patrons must be 18 or older to throw axes. Patrons 21 or older are limited to three drinks while they throw axes, which Hatchet Jack’s employees keep track of using a wristband system.

Patrons are required to wear close-toe shoes; walk-ins are accepted but patrons are advised to book in advance. Groups of three or fewer can book a one hour session; groups of four or more are booked in two-hour segments.

When patrons are done throwing they can move to a bar area to finish off the night — $4 for domestics, $5 for craft beers.

Carroll said Hatchet Jack’s is looking to open locations in Omaha and Des Moines. Three other ax throwing places are opening in Des Moines this month.

“It’s really huge on the east coast. When we started looking into doing this a year ago there weren’t any between Denver and Chicago,” Carroll said.

Carroll ran into the business model while visiting a college buddy in New Jersey.

“We saw that clip of Jason Momoa throwing a hatchet and pounding a Guinness ... One of our other friends Googled it and there was a place half an hour away from where he lived,” Carroll said.

Carroll’s flight home was canceled; for the next two days while waiting for the storm to clear, he and his friends started kicking around the idea that would eventually become Hatchet Jack’s.

Carroll is a regional manager for the parent company that runs the bar Brothers in Iowa City, and he’s still doing that job full time while getting Hatchet Jack’s off the ground.

They use Douglas fir wood boards from local lumberyards for the target boards, and usually have to replace the targets after each group that goes through.

Carroll said they’re still in the process of figuring out a long term use for the used boards.

“We’ll probably give a bunch away for firewood if people want that.”

There are several “pits” in the bar, each of which contains two targets in separate lanes. Carroll said Hatchet Jack’s limits eight people to a pit so there are never more than four people throwing on a target. There also are two party rooms.

Groups can rent out the entire space for team-building workshops and parties.

“We’ve had some bachelor parties in here, bachelorette parties in here. I assume it’s only a matter of time before we see a divorce party … and I’m certain we’ll get some pictures at that point on the targets,” Carroll said, joking.

Carroll said one couple, a pair of dental school graduates, said they wished the bar existed while they were working on their degrees to help blow off some steam.

“There’s something primal about when you get that ax to stick the first time,” Carroll said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8514; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

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