20210504-LOC-Ax-throwing

Keene’s Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved a special exception for a proposed ax-throwing venue on Main Street — but with a key condition.

Last week, Westmoreland resident Jaime Dyer told The Sentinel that in the future, he may be interested in serving alcohol at The Keene Axe House, which he plans to open in the old 365 Cycles space at 110 Main St.

However, during their meeting Monday night, zoning board members expressed concerns about pairing alcohol with axes.

While the board unanimously approved Dyer’s request for a special exception to run a recreational activity business in the city’s central business district, it was on the condition that alcohol service not become part of the plan and that guests not be allowed to bring alcohol in.

“I have no problem with the [ax-throwing] at all,” board Chairman Joshua Gorman said. “But when you mix it with alcohol, that does concern me.”

Dyer told The Sentinel on Tuesday morning he is fine with the board’s decision not to allow alcohol sales.

“I wasn’t ever actually planning on it, at least for now,” he said in a text message. “ ... I’m starting small to see how things go and as the demand increases I’ll be opening more and more.”

The Keene Axe House would invite patrons to throw axes at targets in enclosed lanes. Property owner Roger Weinreich, who spoke during Monday’s meeting on Dyer’s behalf, said the activity is growing in popularity and that this would be the first such facility in the Keene area.

Gorman’s concerns about alcohol service were echoed by the four other board members, all of whom said they’re comfortable allowing people to throw axes in the space but not if patrons are drinking.

Weinreich said he had already been planning to include a no-alcohol policy in his lease for the time being and didn’t voice direct objections to the board’s decision. But he said that at ax-throwing venues that do serve alcohol, people generally drink only a small amount.

“When I did my sort of diligence, looking around the country, I found that on average, people would consume one to two beers in their hour of play, and then they would be out of the building,” he said.

Ax-throwing venues that serve alcohol exist in communities across the U.S., including in Massachusetts and Connecticut, while some New Hampshire ax-throwing venues allow patrons to bring their own alcohol. Weinreich also noted that there’s an international ax-throwing league that holds tournaments, which could come to Keene someday if there’s a venue.

There was some confusion among zoning board members Monday about whether they have the power to decide if alcohol could be served at the business or whether that’s up to the N.H. Liquor Commission. However, the board determined that the question was relevant to whether the property’s proposed use is appropriate, which is within the board’s jurisdiction.

Members approved the proposal based on its meeting four criteria: that it would fit with similar uses in the district, that it would not reduce the value of nearby properties, that it would not cause a hazard for traffic or pedestrians and that the building has adequate access to facilities like water and sewer.

As proposed, The Keene Axe House would have eight lanes, all fully enclosed, with one person throwing in a lane at any given time. Weinreich said there would likely be some merchandise available for purchase, but that food and beverage sales would be limited in an effort to encourage customers to patronize surrounding restaurants before or after their throwing sessions.

“This will be good for our existing tenants,” he said, “for The Works Café and Thai Garden and other businesses downtown who really do need more flow of traffic for their dinner, food services, etcetera.”

Dyer previously told The Sentinel he plans to start by having the business open Fridays through Sundays and that he would expand hours if it does well. He said last week that if the proposal got approved, the business could be open as early as June 4.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson.