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 bullseye. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Sep. 1, 2018

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

She pulled 2 x 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 Ballgame. After installing the wooden slats, she drew circles and colored in a bullseye -- 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 & Grille. 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 bullseye 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 bullseye, 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."


  1. Defendant Reynaldo Figueroa Sanabria leaves the courtroom Wednesday during his murder trial. Sanabria is accused of the stabbing deaths of John Travlos and his girlfriend Germana Morin aboard their houseboat. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Reynaldo Figueroa-Sanabria faces the death penalty in the slayings of John Travlos and Germana “Geri” Morin.
  2. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  3. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The teen sent texts naming two classmates and a faculty member as targets, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He did not have access to guns, however.
  4. Zephyrhillls police Officer Timothy Alan Murr II, 33, was arrested Monday on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. The police department suspended him with pay pending the completion of the criminal investigation. Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The officer is accused of grabbing a woman’s wrists. The Zephyrhills Police Department suspended him with pay.
  5. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. Florida State University professor Wenyuan Fan said the storm probably created "stormquakes" offshore in the gulf, too. [Photo courtesy of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]] NOAA
    Analysis of a decade of records shows hurricanes causing seismic activity on continental shelf
  6. Ken Jones, CEO of Third Lake Capital, has sold WingHouse for $18 million to a Jacksonville restaurant company. [Times 2016]
    Tampa’s Third Like Capital now major shareholder in restaurant’s new owners.
  7. Mama is available for adoption. Hernando County Animal Services
    Hernando County shelter pet offerings
  8. The Don CeSar Hotel is caught up in a lawsuit over liquid nitrogen being served and causing injuries at its restaurant. [Times (2011)]
    They say the other side has made inflammatory and misleading statements to the media.
  9. This Mobil Coast gas station at 16055 State Road 52 in Land O Lakes is one of 10 cited in a Florida Department of Environmental Protection lawsuit where inspectors said they found lapses in regularly required tests, maintenance, documentation or other oversight by Brandon-based Automated Petroleum and Energy or its related companies. On Wednesday, the company said the station had already been put back in compliance with state regulations. (Photo via Google street view) Google street view
    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection contends Automated Petroleum and Energy Company failed to do required maintenance or testing at 10 gas stations in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
  10. FILE - In this Wednesday, July 10, 2019 file photo, 6-year-old elementary school students go through the lunch line in the school's cafeteria in Paducah, Ky. Nearly a million students could lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunches under a Trump administration proposal that's expected to reduce the number of people who get food stamps. In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an analysis finding as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change. ELLEN O'NAN  |  AP
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released details of an analysis that found that as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change.