A beer, cider and wine permit was approved Wednesday night for a Newington recreational ax throwing venue set to open in late July or early August.
Questions during the zone and planning commission meeting centered not on the safety of mixing alcohol and axes but also on whether the facility would have ample parking spaces, which owner Merle McKenzie convinced the board the venue did.
Ax throwing, which involves hurling an ax toward a bull’s-eye target and hoping it sticks, is becoming more popular across the country as a social pastime.
Serving alcohol or allowing patrons to bring their own at these venues is common.
“I felt pretty confident,” McKenzie said. “There was nothing to prevent us unless we didn’t have enough parking.”
Montana Nights will submit a request to the state for a tavern permit. A tavern permit allows the sale of beer, wine and cider but not hard liquor, and Montana Nights will only serve these beverages in cans or disposable plastic cups, no glass.
McKenzie said he anticipates no issues with the state permit process, expected to take four to seven weeks.
When the venue opens, it will have seven pits, one fewer than initial plans. Each lane will be staffed by a trained instructor, an “ax-pert” who teaches throwing technique and monitors safety.
An old truck converted into a bar in the venue’s center will serve drinks, but McKenzie said only people paying to throw will be allowed to enter the venue, excluding spectators or people just interested in drinking.
Those under 21 will also need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Two members of the public spoke in favor of McKenzie’s request, and none spoke in opposition.
Tom Trumbull owns a Mobile station near the venue on Fenn Road, and he said he supported the business.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” Trumbull said. “It’s nice to see businesses coming into Fenn Road.”
David Passera also spoke in favor of the permit request.
“I support Merle’s vision and Merle,” Passera said. “It’s going to be a great business. If I had any reservations, I wouldn’t be here.”
McKenzie said he visited the space at 80 Fenn Road about 15 years ago when it was filled with dirt and critters. McKenzie, who also own a fitness center in Higganum, said he dreamed then about what he could put in the space.
McKenzie’s lawyer, William Sweeney, said he thinks this is good for not just McKenzie but the community.
“When you can bring in a use like this to fill a space that’s been empty for years, it’s a win-win,” Sweeney said.
By: Nyssa Kruse, Contact Reporter.
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