Cutting-Edge Entertainment


(Photo | Courtesy of Unofficial Logging Co.)

Anyone wanting to get a handle on a new form of entertainment on the rise across the nation and somewhat resonant of Central Oregon’s timber history, can get their hatchet-hurling fix at new Bend venue Unofficial Logging Company.

The novel axe-throwing venture is the brainchild of local entrepreneur John Heylin, along with business partner Matt Brobak, and features six lanes with dual targets, as well as beer wine and food, in the former Boomtown Records building at 910 NW Harriman St., downtown, just off Greenwood Avenue.

“I love off-the-wall ideas,” explained Heylin. “And I think people are looking for new forms of entertainment that are competitive and completely fun, especially in a group activity context. It’s a little different from darts or bowling, though we are set up in kind of a caged lane configuration.

“Axe throwing has actually been around for a long time — since early Americans would compete in contests in small town, and anyone can throw a hatchet with proper instructions. It’s all about being consistent with throwing strength and distance from the target.

“We also have coaches/servers trained in throwing techniques and safety guidelines making sure people are being safe and know how to throw.”

On the safety side, a waiver must be signed to be in the axe-throwing area, and a Code of Conduct needs to be observed, including: axes stay in the cages, throw one axe at a time, throw from a safe distance, only aim at the target, throw together/retrieve together, set drinks down to throw, pass axes handles first and check your surroundings.

Exponents not adhering to such rules risk getting an initial “yellow card” warning in the style of being penalized in a soccer game, followed by a full red card rejection and throw fee forfeiture for a repeat offence.

But, thankfully, Bend has embraced the new concept in a well-behaved manner — reflecting a pretty clean track record regarding injuries and suits for the growing trend nationally — and a growing number of visitors are enjoying the new pastime. A league is also being launched locally for those enthusiasts looking to take their game to the next level.

As well as hatchet tossing, Unofficial Logging Co. has a constantly rotating selection of craft beers, select wines and a full-service restaurant featuring a mouth-watering menu designed by Lisandro Ramon, who also operates the popular Brown Owl eatery. Patrons don’t have to take the axe flinging path; they can just hang out at the bar for refreshments and enjoy watching the arm-strength action.

The idea of getting involved in the axe-wielding world started after Heylin made a joking remark regarding insurance estimates for another potential venture.

He said, “I was getting an insurance quote for another concept we were looking at, when the agent asked if we were going to have billiards. I said ‘no, but we’re going to have hatchet throwing’ and he replied ‘well, if its not excluded its covered’, which kind of surprised me and sparked my interest!

“After we seriously looked into it, we searched for a location in Bend for almost a year and when the old Boomtown building became available, with its lofted ceilings, old-style bricks and timber and concrete floors, as well as being conveniently situated downtown, we thought it was just a perfect fit.

“I think Bend has been missing something like this and we feel it is a good match for the area, especially with the logging history and the culture of great beer, wine, food and recreation.”

Another thing that is different about Unofficial Logging Co. is that the targets are paint-free and instead feature pyrographed burn marks in the style of branding. They are regularly replaced and splintered boards can be recycled as firewood.

These kinds of bars are actually a growing phenomenon across North America, with the first believed to have originated in Toronto in 2011 when local bartender and actor Matt Wilson opened an indoor arena with axe throwing and drinks. Now, he has spread his “Backyard Axe” Throwing League to multiple locations in the US and Canada.

Unofficial Logging Co. also features a rack of new merchandise and the company has a mobile axe throwing trailer that can be booked for private events.



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Simon Mather — CBN Feature Writer

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