Advertisement
  1. News

St. Pete bar owner loves mix of beer and brawn

Like darts, the scoring in axe throwing rewards people who get nearest the bull\u2019s-eye.
Published Sep. 3, 2018

The bartenders were icing down coolers as Michelle Simpson made another trip to her car.

She pulled 2-by-10 foot boards from the back seat of her Hyundai, and soon, she was drilling the wood to an outside wall, the clanging sounds of metal on metal competing with a street musician's version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. After installing the wooden slats, she drew circles and colored in a bull's-eye — red, of course. Then she went back to the car for what's most important — the axes.

Welcome to St. Pete Axe & Ale.

The outdoor bar, complete with a chain-link fenced-in area like a batting cage, is on Central Avenue, on the south patio at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill. It opened on June 13, to coincide with International Axe Throwing Day.

"I always enjoyed bartending, because I liked being the person throwing the party," Simpson said.

And she always wanted her own bar, something local, not a big place. Her grandfather had owned a bar once, in Nebraska, where she grew up.

So when she saw a video about a bar in Cincinnati that offered axe throwing, she thought, "that looks like so much fun." She visited a similar place in Tampa, and then thought, "I can do that."

She put together a business plan and contacted Mark and Sherry Ferguson, the owners of Ferg's, who she has known for 20 years. Days later, they were partners.

Reservations at Axe & Ale are $60 an hour. Walk-ups cost $10 per game (10 throws, plus two practice throws) if a lane is free. Throwers must be at least 18, wear closed-toe shoes and sign a waiver. Axes get tossed four days a week, starting at 5 p.m. But there's no throwing after 10 p.m. on weekdays, 11 p.m. on weekends. Beer and blades aren't a good mix, Simpson joked.

"I try to give instructions that are really clear and easy," she said.

On a recent evening, a group of friends battled for the bull's-eye before heading to the Trop for a Rays game. They took turns as Simpson gave pointers and kept score.

"I've never thrown an axe before. It's pretty fun doing it," Jeff De La Concha said. "A round of beers, that's what's at stake right now."

Scoring is similar to darts, but throwing an axe, Simpson said, is like "darts on steroids."

"I describe it as being kind of primal," she said. "It is a hatchet and a piece of wood, but it makes you feel good."

When an axe cuts into the bull's-eye, guests high-five and cheer, and Simpson turns on the siren from a megaphone.

De La Concha's friend, Casey Clary, celebrated when he hit the mark.

"I feel like a Viking, you know."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Authorities found 29-year-old Sharee Bradley stabbed to death on Aug. 5. The chief says she had three children; the 12-year-old and 3-year-old were found safe, but Nevaeh had disappeared. Sumter Police Department/Facebook
    DNA from the remains found Friday has been matched to Nevaeh Adams, Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark told reporters.
  2. Cars back up at a Tampa intersection last October, not long before Hillsborough County voters approved a one-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. This week, local officials detailed how the money would be spent, if the tax survives a legal challenge before the Florida Supreme Court. URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Local governments have plans for $527 million in projects. But the Florida Supreme Court would need to clear the way.
  3. FILE - In this Sunday, April 22, 2018, file photo, a statue of a chained man is on display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new memorial to honor thousands of people killed in racist lynchings, in Montgomery, Ala. Facing an impeachment inquiry that he and supporters claim is illegal, President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, that the process is a lynching. Some Republicans agree, but the relatives of actual lynching victims don’t. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Made in a tweet that drew backing from some Republican supporters including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Trump’s claim was ill-informed at best and racist at worst, they said.
  4. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Damien Wiggins Jr. was found with a gunshot wound in the parking lot of a vacant business on Haines Road.
  5. FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2018 file photo, Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz listens during a status check on his case at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. As his death penalty trial draws closer, a hearing is set for school shooting defendant Cruz in the 2018 massacre that killed 17 people. The hearing Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, likely concerns the setting of timelines leading up to the planned January trial of the 21-year-old Cruz. AMY BETH BENNETT  |  AP
    The hearing Wednesday likely concerns the setting of timelines leading up to the planned January trial of the 21-year-old Cruz.
  6. FILE - This undated file photo released by the FBI shows 3-year-old Kamille McKinney, who police say has been missing since she was abducted while attending a birthday party on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Birmingham, Ala. Investigators searching through garbage found the body of McKinney, who was missing more than a week, and authorities are charging two people with murder, police said Tuesday, Oct. 22. AP
    The child, known as “Cupcake” to relatives, vanished while outside a birthday party on Oct. 12. Investigators know of no link between the suspects and the girl or her family, police say.
  7. An aerial view as police forensic officers attend the scene after a truck was found to contain a large number of dead bodies, in Thurock, South England, early Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019. Police in southeastern England said that 39 people were found dead Wednesday inside a truck container believed to have come from Bulgaria. UK POOL  |  AP
    “We are in the process of identifying the victims, however, I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process," Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said.
  8. A top U.S. diplomat, William Taylor, departs the Capitol after testifying in the Democrats' impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    Democrats said they were shocked and disturbed by what they heard. A look at the key takeaways from Taylor’s statement, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
  9. A Florida black bear (not this one) was found at a Marion County school and removed. CARLTON WARD JR  |  Carlton Ward Jr
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Weeki Wachee Springs main entrance VAUGHN HUGHES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    From its iconic mermaids to its signature statue, Weeki Wachee Springs will be considered for historic designation.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement