The Tri-Valley could see its first ax-throwing lounge opening this winter after the Pleasanton Planning Commission signed off on a use permit for the new recreational game venue on Wednesday night.
Aiming to capitalize on the growing popularity of ax-throwing as a hobby or evening-out activity, Michael Hill -- who also operates Limitless Escape Games in Livermore -- plans to open Limitless Axes & Ales in the Valley Plaza shopping center, inside the tenant suites currently occupied by Monument Car Parts.
"For us, Pleasanton is the absolute perfect spot for an ax-throwing lounge," Hill told the Weekly after the meeting.
"There is a major gap in the entertainment segment, and I feel the people who live in Pleasanton want something to call their own since most entertainment activities are in neighboring Tri-Valley cities Another reason is that we really focus on catering to large corporate team building events," he added.
Ax-throwing, which is more common in Canada and the eastern United States, involves individual participants in fenced-in lanes tossing an ax toward target rings on a wooden board to accrue points based on the blade's distance from the center. With some highly competitive tournaments broadcast on ESPN and streaming platforms, ax-throwing has also been showcased locally the past few years at the annual Scottish Games.
The Pleasanton Municipal Code does not specifically contemplate an ax-throwing lounge as a commercial use, but city staff classified it akin to bowling alley, pool hall and indoor bocce court -- a business category that requires a conditional use permit approved by the Planning Commission.
The conversation before the commission on Wednesday evening centered on the proposed location, safety standards and operational strategy of the proposed lounge, according to assistant city manager Brian Dolan.
Limitless Axes & Ales would occupy Suites A and B in the multi-tenant commercial building at the western edge of Valley Plaza, which is located at the northwest corner of Santa Rita Road and Valley Avenue.
In the 4,300 square feet, the lounge would feature seven throwing lanes, a bar serving beer and wine, seating areas, a lobby and restrooms. Each lane would be fenced in to prevent thrown axes from going into other lanes or elsewhere in the building.
There would be two throwers at a time, hurling the ax end-over-end toward different targets watched by an employee. A viewing area behind the lane could accommodate up to 10 people total.
"As proposed, the activity would be heavily monitored for safety by the applicant who would have a coach assigned to each lane in operation who would provide step-by-step directions to all participants on how to throw an ax as well as monitor safety regulations," city associate planner Jennifer Hagen wrote in her staff report.
Hill presented to the commissioners about his operational plan for Limitless Axes & Ales and answered their questions about proposed safety standards and other topics, according to Dolan.
The commission also heard from two residents of the nearby Danbury Park area who raised concerns about an ax-throwing lounge opening close to their neighborhood, Dolan said.
In the end, the commission voted 4-1 to approve the use permit and associated operational conditions as recommended by city staff, while also adding a condition limiting alcohol sales to two servings per patron per hour.
Commissioner Nancy Allen dissented, generally opposed to the lounge opening in a neighborhood shopping center (rather than, say, an industrial park) and the potential danger of the activity, especially when coupled with drinking.
The operator hopes to open the business by the end of December, according to Hagen.
A manager at Monument Car Parts -- the tenant currently operating in the space (1809 Santa Rita Road, Suites A and B) -- said Friday the store remains in business and he had no information on lease negotiations nor a potential closing or relocation.