The latest import from Canada is a new bar game: ax-throwing.
Bad Axe Throwing will open its first U.S. location next week in Chicago. If it goes over well — and participants leave with all their limbs still intact — the chain will look to expand to other cities.
"It's modern-day bowling," Bad Axe founder Mario Zelaya said of the sport. "Like darts, but on steroids."
For $44.25 per person plus tax, patrons get a one-on-one lesson on how to throw an ax from an ax-throwing coach, as well as a tutorial on how to stay safe and what the rules of the game are. After a warmup, groups of throwers will take part in a tournament, throwing axes at a wooden target and competing against one another for bragging rights.
For those looking to refine their technique before they come in, Bad Axe has a section on its website detailing how to throw an ax, with helpful tips such as "don't throw an ax if someone is in front of you or near the target." There's also advice on how to properly grip an ax.
Axes are provided, and patrons are not allowed to bring in their own axes "due to our insurance policies," according to the website.
Zelaya said he picked Chicago for the company's first foray south of the border because it reminds him of Toronto.
"We've been looking at several U.S. locations for about eight months now — maybe even longer," he said. "We decided to prioritize Chicago over the others because of the similarity to Toronto. The diversity of people, how great of a city it is, it was a great fit."
Bad Axe doesn't serve food or alcohol at any of its locations, but the company does allow patrons to bring in their own food and beer. Hard liquor is not allowed on the premises.
"It's more about having a beer with friends and throwing axes," Zelaya said. "It's not about doing shots and getting hammered."
There's also no age limit, so everyone can try their hand at throwing axes. Zelaya said the youngest patrons so far have been between 9 and 11 years old. The company was launched in 2014.
Zelaya said it usually doesn't take long for patrons to figure out how to throw an ax. In his experience, women tend to get the hang of ax-throwing faster than men do.
"The people that get it the most are the ones who listen closely. That tends to be females," he said. "Guys put too much macho-ness into the throw and think they can do it on their own terms."