Ax-Throwing Beer Bar, Chops + Hops, to Open in Fort Lauderdale

Chops + Hops cofounders Ryan Lavernia and Clay Rusch.
Courtesy of Chops + Hops
Chops + Hops cofounders Ryan Lavernia and Clay Rusch.
Think of it as the latest outrageous pairing to hit South Florida: throwing axes and drinking beer.

That's the idea behind a Fort Lauderdale establishment opening later this year that will allow patrons to sip their suds while leisurely hurling hatchet-like objects at wooden targets. Think of it as extreme dart-throwing, but better.

Local entrepreneur and former Colada owner/cofounder Ryan Lavernia and Fort Lauderdale native Clay Rusch are the duo behind Chops + Hops, the city's first ax-throwing bar, opening this fall at 702 NE First Ave. in the heart of Flagler Village.

"We chose Flagler Village for so many reasons. There are few places in South Florida that combine the vision and execution of the development occurring here," Lavernia says.

It's the first of its kind in the area, but ax-throwing as an indoor recreational activity has been a growing trend in recent years. The pastime is popular in Canada but gained a larger audience with the Backyard Axe Throwing League chain founded by Toronto bartender and actor Matt Wilson, who opened an indoor arena with axe-throwing and drinks. The World Axe Throwing League was later established to create a standard rule system for competition among players.

More recently, indoor spaces designed as ax-throwing establishments stateside have been structured like bowling alleys, with food-and-beverage components and recreational leagues, and many are designed as themed bars or restaurants.

"When I first heard about an ax-throwing bar, I didn't believe it could work, but after visiting a few in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., I saw the appeal. It's an activity that attracts all ages," Lavernia says. "We aren't reinventing the wheel; we just want to do it better than it's been done before."

Chops + Hops will be a 2,000-square-foot venue housing six enclosed ax-throwing lanes. Guests can hurl the weapons at wooden targets in a cozy, lodge-inspired setting.

And there's beer. A bar with ten taps will offer a highly curated assortment of local craft beer, Lavernia says, along with snacks such as jerky, popcorn, cookies, and chips. Guests can also order from a rotating lineup of food trucks.

Patrons will be able to make lane reservations on the Chops + Hops website. The cost is $35 per person for 90 minutes of ax-chucking fun. If you've never thrown an axe before, no problem: Beginners can work with staff "axperts" — instructors who teach the basics of throwing an ax and various games.

Lavernia says he hopes the ax-throwing venue will become a popular spot to host group events, from bachelorette and bachelor parties to corporate meetings.

"Our goal is to be the place you stop as part of your night out — like dinner and a movie but with ax-throwing too," Lavernia says. "We want to create an immersive experience for people of all ages and backgrounds. And if it's that's to release some work-related stress by hurling axes and putting back a couple of beers, that's OK too."

Chops + Hops Axe Throwing Lodge. 701 NE First Ave., Fort Lauderdale; Opening fall 2018.