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Cape Coral business has no ax to grind but TJ’s Hatchet Hangout ready to throw down

By Staff | Jul 25, 2019

A one-of-a-kind night out in Cape Coral may find you tapping into your primal instincts.

TJ’s Hatchet Hangout, Southwest Florida’s first and only ax-throwing bar — yes, an ax-throwing bar — provides an ax-treme ax-perience for all patrons who venture to the indoor facility.

Co-owners Tasha Williams and Jessi Lee opened TJ’s in June and said what sets them apart is their ability to offer a first-time experience — a rare occurrence.

“Most people have never thrown an ax before,” said Williams. “How often can you really say that you’ve done something for the first time? Not very often.”

While some may think TJ’s is for ax-wielding, burly men, that is certainly not the case.

Williams said she sees people of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds come in and enjoy themselves — even if they’re tentative about it at first.

All of that anxiety turns into jubilation once you “stick it.”

“It’s the coolest thing. It’s really the coolest thing. The feeling when (the ax) sticks, you’re like ‘Oh!’ And as you start to really figure it out and get it, you feel like you’ve conquered something,” said Williams. “Most people think, ‘I can’t throw an ax and hit a bullseye.’ But you can.”

Safety is a top priority for all at TJ’s, as ax-perts are present at each of the throwing stations to give throwers a run-down of the rules and regulations.

“People (say), ‘Oh no, beer and axes, it’s got to be dangerous,'” said Williams. “First time you’re in here you realize it’s a lot more controlled than you think. Safety is always first. Ax-perts have been trained per WATL (World Ax Throwing League) standards. We’ve been trained per WATL standards. They are really good at what they do.”

TJ’s has eight throwing lanes or targets broken down into four “cages” with two targets in each. One ax-pert will oversee each “cage.”

Only the two throwers and ax-pert are allowed in the throwing area at a time.

“There’s an ax-pert in your lane with you at all times,” said Williams “They give you your safety, your instruction, your games — and then basically after that they just monitor and make sure everyone is being safe.”

Anyone not currently throwing at the target is required to be behind a barrier that clearly marks a restricted area — but are welcome to cheer on their friends.

“What we see here is people are high-fiving, slap-happy, competitive,” said Williams. “We’ve seen moms that come in super conservative and 15 minutes later, they’re like, ‘In your face!’ You know, it brings out such a time that you’re not used to.”

Williams noted that if ax-perts or employees sees anyone “getting out of control,” they may be asked to leave.

No matter your strength or experience, anyone can be successful at ax-throwing, said Williams.

“There is a system to it. It is something that with practice, you get better,” Williams said. “We’ve seen couples come in where the girl will whoop his butt, because she’s figured out the rotation. It doesn’t have to be hard, it just has to stick.”

She even told about a 70-year-old man from Punta Gorda who has already been three times with three different people.

If people come by themselves, they often get paired in a lane with a stranger. Williams said that every time, without fail, a friendship is born out of a day at TJ’s — with the brand new bond being fortified at their bar after tossing hatchets.

“When people are here they say they love the environment. We do have a lot of fun,” said Williams. “It has turned into a lot more of a community instead of just ‘that place.'”

The ax throwing target it 48 inches wide and made up of five rings. The outermost ring is worth 1 point, with values increasing the closer you get to the center.

The throwing line is 12-feet from the target.

The bullseye is worth six points.

Standard games see throwers toss 10 axes at the target, with the highest score winning after all throws have been taken.

There is also a “killshot” — which is a small blue circle on the target that is worth 8 points only when “activated” — usually on the fifth or tenth throw.

The point value awarded to each throw is determined by whichever outermost ring the ax blade is touching.

Other games such as “around the world,” tic-tac-toe or first to “x” amount of points wins can also be played.

When a thrower hits the bullseye, they can celebrate by ringing a bell at the station.

“We hear bells ringing and celebrating all the time,” Williams said.

Changing the wooden boards is a regular occurrence for staff, though it can be good to have a board that may be a bit worn, as the ax blade sticks better.

Boards are also sprayed down with water prior to throwing to help throwers land their target.

TJ’s is also a part of WATL and will be hosting a four-week practice league beginning Aug. 4 on Wednesday nights. Players will have an hour of free throw and participate in four matches each week.

Beginning at the end of September, TJ’s will host an eight-week league, also on Wednesday nights. TJ’s will offer four leagues per year where players can have a chance to compete to qualify for the top WATL championship, featured on ESPN.

The practice league in August is $99 to join and the winter league is $165.

Competition is individual, not team. On league nights, throwers may bring their own axes — as long as they meet WATL requirements.

“The league play will definitely set us apart. There are 138 World Ax Throwing League affiliates in the U.S.,” said Williams.

The idea for TJ’s actually came from watching WATL on television.

“We happened to catch it on TV,” said Williams. “We just thought it was really cool. We thought it was like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of neat and different.'”

Williams and Lee did their research and discovered ax-throwing bars in Miami and Tampa. They went, checked the places out and had a good time.

“We started thinking, ‘Wow, maybe we could actually bring this to Southwest Florida,'” Williams said.

And so they did.

Southwest Florida residents can visit TJ’s for non-league play on Friday from 5 p.m. – midnight, Saturday noon-midnight and Sunday from 2 p.m.- 6 p.m.

Groups of 1-4 people are $25 per person for one hour and groups of 4-plus are $40 per person for two hours.

The facility is also available to rent for parties, large groups and businesses. TJ’s serves beer and wine, as well as popcorn from Wild About Popcorn, a local company in the Cape. Patrons can also bring in their own food if they wish.

On Fridays and Saturdays, you must be at least 18 years old to play. On Sunday’s children 12-plus will be able to participate, but only with a legal parent or guardian, as well as a copy of their birth certificate (only on the first visit). All players are required to sign a waiver before throwing.

Walk-ins are welcome, though Williams recommended to make reservations online to secure your spot.

To make a reservation and for more information about TJ’s, visit www.TJsHatchetHangout.com. TJ’s is at 1242 SW Pine Island Road.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj