When Jason Cooney and his team were building Victoria Burrow, the first bar in Minnesota to allow people to both drink alcohol and throw axes, Cooney kept hearing the same sarcastic question: What could go wrong?
So, he made that Victoria Burrow’s catchphrase. “Drinking and ax-throwing: What could go wrong?” is on his staff’s T-shirts now.
There haven’t been any accidents — yet. But there are nicks all over the six wood-paneled lanes and targets at the back of the 26,000-square-foot bar, restaurant and game venue in a former supermarket in the distant western suburb of Victoria (7999 Victoria Dr., Victoria, 952-206-5050, victoriaburrow.com).
Ax coaches watch the players (ages 18 and up, as young as 11 with a parent) and teach them proper throwing and handling technique. “We really wanted to own the idea that we can responsibly and in a fun way do drinking and ax throwing at the same time,” said Cooney, director of operations at Victoria Burrow.
Still, the axes don’t always reach their target. That’s the thrill in this increasingly popular team sport, which now even has leagues. (There are two other ax-throwing locales in the Twin Cities, but neither has a liquor license.)
“It’s like better darts,” Cooney said. “There’s a sense of danger, a sense of adventure. The whole crowd cheers when someone hits the bull’s-eye for the first time.”
For those too timid to hurl a sharp metal blade through the air after a few drinks, Victoria Burrow also has mini-golf and an arcade with virtual reality. It’s the latest entry in a growing field of bars and restaurants that also double as recreation centers. Think: Punch Bowl Social in St. Louis Park and Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul.
“People want to spend their money on experiences,” Cooney explained about the popularity of gaming centers like Victoria Burrow. “If they don’t have something to do while they dine, they are just on their phones while they eat. I think we’re going to see more of this.”
While there are lots of places to throw axes in the U.S. and Canada (not counting backyards, of course), it’s an activity that feels especially Minnesotan. Anyone who’s chopped wood at their cabin while dressed in plaid probably knows what they’re doing here.
“It does have that Paul Bunyan and flannel appeal to it,” Cooney said.
He toured ax-throwing bars in other parts of the country, though, and found that many had a more “urban, industrial feel,” which he incorporated into the dining area. Food-trucklike windows are cut into retrofitted shipping containers. One serves pizza, another smoked meat, and another “street food” like hummus and grilled cheese. There’s also a bakery, and ice cream from La La in Minneapolis.
It’s a little bit Renaissance Festival, a little bit State Fair, Cooney explained. You can mosey back to the ax-throwing lanes with a beer in one hand, a turkey leg in the other.
“We wanted it to be immersive,” he said.
As the desire for experiences keeps growing, expect to see places popping up with indoor skydiving, spear-throwing, archery and the like — maybe with a little alcohol thrown in.
But even Cooney has limits.
“I probably wouldn’t go to a shooting range after drinking some cocktails,” he said.
Some people might say that about ax-throwing.