Tim's Turn | Bad Axe is a Good Idea
It's noon on a pleasant fall Saturday in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The beer is a-flowin’, and the axes are a-throwin’. The place is packed. I’m at Bad Axe Throwing, a Canadian lumberjack-themed restaurant, bar, and ax-throwing attraction. I’m totally enthralled with my surroundings and all the energy I feel emanating from the crowd. It’s the only ax-throwing bar in Music City.
I don’t see anything but smiles on the mostly 20- and 30-somethings in the crowd. If they aren’t throwing, they are socializing, eating, and drinking—gathered around a television (13 of them) with a football game in progress. Live music is presented every weekend.
This is one of 30 Bad Axe locations in the U.S., with another 10 in the U.K. and Canada. “We are an independently owned and licensed location, and we look and feel very differently than the others,” says Colt Winters, a Nashville native and the kitchen/bar manager. “We have taken advantage of being in Nashville, and even our logo character is wearing a cowboy hat.”
A mural on the exterior wall features portraits of 12 country music stars—all holding and posing with axes. The mural, painted by Nashville muralist Michael Cooper and his team at Murals and More, offers quite a sense of arrival. It also offers unlimited selfie opportunities. “I was out there painting, even before the place was open, and tour buses would pull up, and people would come up and start taking pictures,” Michael notes.
Business has been booming since the doors opened in January 2021. The 9,000-square-foot facility has three large rooms: the main room with an open kitchen and the bar, the Paul Bunyan Room, and the Davy Crockett Room, each with one of Cooper’s murals and plenty of tables. The 29 ax targets are divided among the rooms and an outside patio. A magnificent view of the downtown skyline is featured along one of the walls, a view that will be enhanced even more when the rooftop bar and restaurant is completed.
Colt told me that business has exceeded all expectations. He and the owners (Dr. Thom Dahle, an interventional cardiologist, and Dr. Angela Dahle, a rheumatologist) knew the ax-throwing attraction would do well, but they were blown away by the demand for the bar and restaurant as a complement.
“We get people coming in for food and drinks who don’t throw,” Colt says, adding that current capacity is 290. “If you want a lane [to throw], you need to make a reservation online, or you probably won’t get a lane.” Colt estimates that 80% of his business comes from out of state.
The attraction is an event space. There have been several total buyouts, a lot of parties of 10-15 people out for a fun time, and “many, many” team-building events from companies in the Nashville area. Leagues play on Sunday afternoons.
“Mixing alcohol with people throwing axes. What could go wrong?” This was my first thought when I found out about Bad Axe. When I vocalized the thought to Colt, he smiled.
“I hear that a lot,” he says. “Actually, there have been no accidents or incidents. Our servers are trained to know what trouble looks like, and we quickly act accordingly.”
How did I do with throwing? That’s a column in itself. After seeing me in action, Colt has promised me private lessons.