In a first for York, an axe-throwing centre is set to open inside a brand-new restaurant.
The Hilt will feature six axe-throwing bays behind a restaurant serving ‘American bar food with a Nordic twist’.
It will also feature some unique cocktails – although the proprietors are quick to stress that no one under the influence of alcohol will be allowed to throw the axes.
Co-owner of The Hilt, Alex Cronin, told YorkMix:
We’re going to open up a restaurant with a really creative food and drinks focus – and some axe-throwing bays in the back.
There’s nothing else quite like it around here.
The nearest existing axe-throwing range is an outdoor one at the Yorkshire Activity Centre at Askham Bryan.
Create 20 jobs
The plan is to open the restaurant and axe centre at number 57 Goodramgate – next door to Savers – this summer.
The building already has planning permission for a restaurant. Alex has put in a licensing application which would see it operating from 8am to 12.30am Sunday to Thursday, and an hour later on Friday and Saturdays.
This application also details the precautionary measures to ensure the cocktails and axe-throwing don’t mix.
“You have to be sober. If you show up drunk then, for pretty obvious reasons, we are not going to hand you an axe,” he said.
“Health and safety are the biggest concerns in the axe bays.”
The new venue would have about 80 covers and create around 20 jobs.
If you’re a regular on social media, you have probably seen the boom in the activity of axe throwing.
“It’s absolutely blowing up in Canada and America – and it’s starting to get a really good foothold over here,” Alex said.
“Imagine you’re at an archery or shooting range. But instead of firing a gun or shooting a bow, you’re throwing an axe. Obviously the distances are less, but it’s the exact same thing.”
The idea came from his friend Josh Goodwin. Originally from York, Josh had moved to the States but called Alex with the vision of opening an axe-throwing centre in his home town.
Asking for advice on possible locations, Alex told him about the Goodramgate venue – which would be the perfect size for both businesses to combine.
He also sees the axe-throwing activity as a way to help tame the stag and hen problem in York. And not in a violent way!
One of the reasons I think we have such a problem with hen and stag dos in York is – what is there to do?
You’ve got a couple of escape rooms… and drinking. And really that’s it.
Trying to add an events base – and one where you have to be sober – would actually start to have a serious, good impact on the city centre.
Cocktails in the blood
For Alex, the restaurant and bar would be the continuation of a journey which began when he was 18 and first came to England from his home in Virginia, US.
Alex, whose dad is British and mum is American, passed through York on his travels and thought “it seemed like a nice place to start out”.
He began working in pubs and bars in the city, following in his family’s footsteps.
“My grandfather ran an Italian restaurant in New Jersey that was so good the Mafia always dined there,” Alex said.
“He didn’t care who ate there as long as there wasn’t any violence.”
Alex ran the pop-up cocktail bar Speakeasy Libation in York before being invited by the people behind Spark:York to open a bar there – and 4Swings was born.
It closed last month as Alex concentrated on his new venture. The Hilt will build on the reputation for creativity he established at 4Swings.
Cocktails will include colour-changing mojitos and bacon infused bourbon with maple syrup. And there will be a ‘quicktails’ menu of drinks for £5, such as the Move Like Jaeger drink, with Jaeger, ginger beer and OJ.
At the heart of the ‘accessible street food’ menu will be gourmet dogs – build-your-own hot dogs with locally-produced sausages and a choice of around 30 toppings and sauces.
There will be a range of fresh, healthy and vegan options too, like spiced mango salad.
Alex hopes the Hilt will be open in mid-June, or by early July at the latest.