Brett Michaelson is Santa Barbara’s new ax man.
The entrepreneur launched the State Street Ax Club at 427 State St. with a soft opening last week and a full opening this week, after more than two years of trying to open a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The wait, however, seems worth it.
“This town needs entertainment,” Michaelson told Noozhawk. “People want something to do in the evening to have fun. They don’t just want to sit down and go back to the bar.”
In an innovative yet simple concept, customers can throw axes at dart-shaped wooden targets. That’s it. The appeal, however, is both primal and creative. An internet search reveals that ax throwing is a growing trend, perhaps even hotter than pickleball and smash rooms.
The cost is $35 per hour for a throwing lane for one person. Participants must sign a waiver just in case something goes wrong, but that’s not likely with Michaelson and his attentive staff watching every throw.
They will even provide an introduction on how to cast. “Hold it like a baseball bat, dominant hand on top,” Michaelson said.
There are two ways to throw, but like any good athlete, everyone will have to find their own style. Two hands overhead and projecting forward (don’t brush, however, just release) is the most popular style. Or, like this reporter, one-handed throwing, like a short-arm baseball, can also drive a target.
The place is buzzing with loud music, a mix of 80s pop, hip hop, alternative and classic rock. Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the business opened, a steady stream of passers-by stopped to peek inside, many of them surprised that Santa Barbara had a place to throw axes.
Among Tuesday’s customers were Richard and Hope Wood, tourists from Fresno who Googled “axe throwing” and found the Santa Barbara business.
“It’s the first time we’ve thrown axes,” said Richard Wood. “Ten out of five stars.”
On Wednesday, he said, he and his wife were going to get tattoos. Ax throwing, however, was the highlight of the Santa Barbara vacation.
“It’s super fun, super cool,” he said.
Brett Michaelson lands in the bullseye after a pitch on his State Street Ax Club. (Photo by Joshua Molina/Noozhawk)
It may be fun, but it’s also serious business. There is no drinking allowed, and although other ax throwing clubs allow alcohol, Michaelson said he has no plans to apply for a liquor license.
He helped start an ax throwing business in Los Angeles. He went to UCSB and had a vision to open a business downtown.
He first threw an ax about three years ago. He became addicted. He said his biggest piece of advice for new ax throwers is, “Don’t overthink it.”
“It’s something different and a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a great way to release a lot of stress after a hard day.”
The business is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday. It’s college night on Thursday, and it’s open from 4 p.m. to midnight. Students get $5 off. It is open from 2 p.m. to midnight on Friday, from noon to midnight on Saturday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
“But if people keep coming in, I’ll stay open,” Michaelson said. “Santa Barbara is beautiful. We have the beaches, we have amazing food, shopping, handmade items, but we need more entertainment.”