BRUSSELS – Two Belgian entrepreneurs have opened a bar in the capital Brussels, the institutional heart of the European Union, that offers a primitive stress-buster for its clients by not only serving up a range of strong beers but also providing a space where patrons can hurl axes at a dartboard to let off steam, the owners told EFE in an interview on Monday.
Felix Romain and Julien Vandenitte opened the Woodcutter bar after a visit to London, where they first became aware of the sport and decided to adapt it for the Belgian market.
“Hurling axes is a popular sport in Canada and the United States,” Romain told EFE.
The businessman added that, as the sport has traveled across the Atlantic, each country has tweaked it to make it more appealing to national markets; for the Belgians, beer, a world-renowned local specialty, is a key element.
The game bears some similarities to archery except, in this case, clients use both hands to hurl a stocky axe toward a wooden dartboard that has been marked up with felt tip pen with a design encouraging participants to get as close to the bullseye as possible in order to hit maximum points.
At first glance, the pastime may seem rather barbaric, but Romain says it is a game that requires technique, not force.
In fact, anyone can take part and people often visit the bar after work with friends, colleagues and family.
“This sport is suitable for anyone who wants to come and have some fun and let off some steam after work,” Roman continued, adding that Brussels can be a stressful city to live in with heavy traffic and not much sun.
Located in the city center, just three minutes on foot from the well-known Manneken Pis landmark – a small bronze sculpture featuring a little naked boy urinating into a fountain – the bar certainly makes an impression on first-timers who get to see an ancient sport revived to deal with the pressures of urban living.
The atmosphere is similar to a bowling alley, but adrenaline levels soar as rookies excitedly, and somewhat nervously, take to the axe-throwing bacchanal.
For this reason, Romain and his colleague take health and safety precautions very seriously, the first step was to ban minors from entering the premises.
The owners also refuse entry to anyone who may seem excessively inebriated.
“We don’t promote alcohol, we simply allow participants to enjoy the experience with a beer,” Romain added.
The second rule of the Woodcutter bar is that only one axe is allowed per group so that they are hurled one by one. Customers engage in the activity in a fenced off space where the floor is covered in astroturf as well as splinters and woodchips left behind by previous participants.
The aesthetic is refreshingly downbeat and has a handcrafted homely quality to it, adding to the sense of escapism the business cashes in on.
The experience costs 17 euros ($19.3) an hour and the team have a quick turnover of Belgian beers which they update every week.
The concept has proven so successful that the urban axe throwing team are already plotting to open new venues in the cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Lovaine over the course of the year.
Axe throwing is growing in popularity globally and even boasts international competitions hosted by the World Axe Throwing League with members from 17 participating countries.
The National Axe Throwing Federation, created in 2016, has some 4,500 members from seven countries although most of them are from the US and Canada.