For those who like to mix their social pastimes — say, throwing axes and drinking alcohol — we’ve got some good news and some bad news.
The bad news: The original Social Axe Throwing location in Ogden will likely remain dry.
On Tuesday, the state liquor commission approved a recreational beer license for the Social Axe Throwing business at 1154 S. 300 West, in Salt Lake City. After making the requisite jokes about combining drinking and throwing sharp objects — along with initial concerns about the type of license that would be most appropriate — the commission voted 6-1 to allow beer sales at the Salt Lake venue.
Terry Wood, spokesman for the DABC, said the lone dissenting vote came from a commissioner who didn’t appreciate the mixing of the two.
“One of the commissioners said, ‘I gotta say, alcohol and axes — to me — don’t seem like a good combination,'" Wood recounted. “And when it did come down to a vote, she was against it.”
Mark Floyd, a co-owner of Social Axe Throwing, said the hearing started out as a “lighthearted conversation,” but quickly turned to questions going far beyond just the alcohol issue. For one thing, the DABC simply didn’t know where an ax-throwing business might fit into state law. Utah has a recreational-use beer license, but that applies to specific businesses like bowling alleys, golf courses, sports arenas, miniature golf and the like, according to Wood.
“It took a little bit of decision-making to decide where this fit in,” Wood said. “I don’t think when they wrote the law that they knew an axe-throwing place would be a thing.”
Wood said the commission decided that Social Axe Throwing was like a bowling alley, but with lanes separated by chain-link fences.
Had their business not been considered a recreational facility similar to a bowling alley, Mark Floyd said his company would have had to rethink its model.
“If we hadn’t gotten the recreational-use addition, we probably would have had to turn to a tavern or beer license — meaning anyone coming in had to be 21 or over,” he said. “We didn’t want that, because we still want to have family gatherings with children. But if parents want to have a beer, that’s OK.”
Social Axe Throwing’s Salt Lake venue opened in February. The original location, at 2236 Washington Blvd., in Ogden, opened in April 2017.
Mark Floyd’s son, co-owner Brayden Floyd, said they originally tried to get a beer license for the Ogden site in late July or August of last year, but “it didn’t get past the front desk” at the DABC.
“They told us, ‘You’re too close to the temple,'" Brayden Floyd said.
State law requires businesses with liquor licenses to be certain distances from “community locations” (defined as schools, churches, public libraries, playgrounds and parks). In the case of a recreational beer license like the one the Ogden business would apply for, Wood said the venue’s entrance must be at least 600 feet from a community location — in this case, the Ogden LDS Temple.
“Unfortunately, it cannot happen in Ogden,” Mark Floyd said. “We’d have to be 600 feet from the temple, and currently we are at 585 feet.”
Brayden Floyd said some have asked him how Even Stevens, an Ogden sandwich shop, could get a beer license when it’s located much closer to the Ogden Temple than Social Axe Throwing. But Even Stevens is a restaurant, and it makes most of its money from food sales. Wood said, by law, restaurants are permitted to be closer to these community locations than recreational venues.
What’s more, Wood says the Ogden location can’t apply for a variance, either.
“You used to be able to get a variance if the entity close by — like a school or library — said ‘It’s OK with us,'" Wood explained. “But last year the Legislature changed the law to do away with all variances.”
Social Axe Throwing’s owners discussed the possibility of moving the main entrance in Ogden to the back side of the building, in order to get beyond the 600-foot proximity line. But in the end, they decided against it.
“I don’t want to enter my business from a back alley,” Mark Floyd said. “I like my storefront where it is. It’d be great to be able to sell beer, but you’ve got to sell a lot of beers to pay for that back door.”
And so, unless the temple were to move, or the Utah Legislature changed the proximity laws, patrons won’t be able to order a beer at Ogden’s original Social Axe Throwing venue.
But for those who feel strongly about drinking beer while hurling axes socially, Mark Floyd said there is an easy remedy.
“Even though we can’t sell beer in Ogden, our Salt Lake location is only 28 minutes to the south,” he said. “We are at 1300 South — literally two turns off the freeway and you’re there.”
Brayden Floyd, who says it was a “very, very frustrating day” last summer when they were told they couldn’t have a beer license in Ogden, does offer a tiny glimmer of hope for the future of alcohol sales at their Weber County venue.
“I wouldn’t say the fight is over,” he said. “Ogden’s where the dream started, and we want the same love up here.”