Croydon is about to get its first axe-throwing bar at Boozepark.
That’s right: a bar, selling booze, next to East Croydon Station, providing axes to its customers as a form of recreation. In central Croydon, a place already with a reputation for alcohol-fuelled violent crime. Where the police and local authorities battle daily to reduce the supply of bladed weapons and prevalence of knife crime.
Couldn’t make it up?
No need, because despite objections from Croydon Council officials and a ward councillor (only one?), a licensing application from Bad Axe Throwing has been granted, largely because axe throwing “is not a licensable activity”.
According to the meeting’s minutes, there was no objection from the police, who instead simply asked that the same conditions that have been applied to another axe bar, at Boxpark Wembley, should be applied: you can only go into Boozepark and get pissed and throw axes if you are over 18.
As the minutes state, “The sub-committee was mindful that axe-throwing was not a licensable activity under the Licensing Act 2003 (‘the Act’) but that the licensable activity they were tasked with considering was the sale of alcohol by retail.
“The sub-committee noted that the police had not raised any objections to the proposed application, whether from a crime and disorder perspective or in relation to any of the other licensing objectives.”
This left the committee unable to give any weight to the objections raised by Shaun Hanks, the head of quality assurance and safeguarding in the council’s children, families and education department.
Hanks had written to the committee to express “strong objections”. Hanks’ intervention falls firmly into the category of a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, but clearly needed to be said.
“Given the problems with knife crime and violence around the venue and station the provision of axes to throw does not appear to be preventive in relation to safety or limiting access to weapons.
“The provision of alcohol at the same venue does not appear to be in line with [the applicants’] statement of not allowing anyone intoxicated to take part.” Hanks added that Bad Axe had offered “insufficient information” about their child safeguarding policies and training.
At the end of the meeting, the only other concession to public safety required by the police was that there should be no axe throwing going on when Boozepark stages its larger events. The axe bar will just have to rely on its sales of booze on those occasions.
Axe-throwing is, we are told, the post-lockdown Next Big Thing. We’re all going to don our lumberjack shirts and do a bit of workplace bonding with an axe in our hands, instead of going bowling or playing pool. Thing is, at several of the other commercial axe venues that have opened up in England in the past year, their business is all about the throwing, and less about the throwing-up – they operate without the need for an alcohol licence.
According to the licensing application for Croydon, “Bad Axe Throwing was founded by CEO Mario Zelaya in 2014. In just a few years, they have expanded across Canada and the United States with over 40 locations, including a licensed site in Wembley, North West London.
“Bad Axe Throwing is the world’s biggest urban axe throwing club. Their mission is to bring the thrill of a traditional Canadian backyard pastime to urban communities. With the talented axe throwing coaches, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to share their passion for throwing axes.” Admit it, you never realised you had that passion for throwing axes, did you?
“They pride ourselves [sic] in delivering outstanding customer service to all of our clients whether it’s for walk-ins, leagues, private parties and team building events.”
It ain’t cheap, either. At £33 per person for groups of six, it means you’re virtually £200 out of pocket before anyone gets the first round in.
In a recent report on the growing trend, The Grauniad said, “Much like bowling, axe throwing involves lanes. Punters are given axes, though some ranges do let you bring your own…” Just let that percolate when applied to Croydon.
The “punters”, as the Grauniadista would have it, “are taught to throw them at wooden targets painted with concentric circles and dots.” Apparently, there are “detailed rules… laid out by the International Axe Throwing Federation”. There’s even a TV-tie-in with sports broadcasters ESPN.
Zelaya, with the ink on his Croydon licence still drying, told The Guardian, that “demand for the activity, as a fun stress-reliever and exercise, will be huge in the upcoming months”.
Next, Inside Croydon will bring you news of its own application to set up dog-fighting pits in Surrey Street and for the staging of a bull fight in Queen’s Gardens. Because, you know, demand for the activity will be huge in the upcoming months.
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