It’s you and the bullseye. You’ve seen your fair share of these, mostly when you were younger, maybe in college. It was different back then. You might have had a dart in one hand, a vodka soda in the other. Maybe you were trying to impress a potential date. Maybe it didn’t matter. That was mundane.
This is different. The bullseye stands on a large wooden plank, with big, jagged chip marks decorating its surface. You’re holding an axe– yes, an axe– above your head. It’s just you and the board. You’re told to release at eye level, and there’s the thud. The sound rings in your bones like a bass guitar. Damn, that felt good.
That’s just a snippet of what your time at Montana Nights Axe Throwing in Newington will bring. The building itself is plain on the outside, but once you pass through the doors, it’s as if you’ve been transported to what feels like the woodsy-cabin of a wealthy older bachelor. Complete with a billiard table, foosball, cages with huge planks for axe throwing, and an old truck that’s been repurposed into a bar, hanging out at Montana Nights feels like being on a boys weekend without your mother’s permission.
Montana Nights, which officially opened in late August, is owned by Merle and Diana McKenzie, a couple from Higganum. Merle, a gym owner and trainer, and Diana, a second grade teacher, heard about the axe throwing trend and knew they wanted to be part of the movement.
“It just sounded like a cool concept,” Merle said. Merle, who has always dreamed of owning a log cabin, knew whatever would come of his business plan would have to incorporate his love of cabin vibes and the great state of Montana.
“I love the mystique of it, I love the open land,” he said. “It’s just beautiful.”
That Montana-style, rustic energy is channeled all over.
The McKenzies envisioned a business that would lend itself well to corporate parties and large groups. Montana Nights is set up similar to a bowling alley, in that there are cages for up to two axe throwers, and then space behind the cage for the rest of the party to watch, drink, and socialize. They provide guests with score cards for various games, and a staff member is present at all times to quash any safety risk and help players make the most out of their games.
Safety is, understandably, a big question for patrons who have never been to an axe throwing facility. But Merle says that anyone who has played darts in a dark bar that serves hard liquor has likely been in more danger than a patron at Montana Nights. Axe throwers must be over 10 years old and have closed-toe shoes.
The truck-turned-bar does not sell any hard liquor, just craft beers, wines, and ciders. Additionally, axe throwers are carefully guided by “ax-perts” who teach them how to throw. It’s not a free-for-all, McKenzie said, which is what he thinks people may assume.
If you’re not drawn to the place for the sake of supporting local small business owners, or for the craft beer, or for the decor, go simply because of the unparalleled feeling of an axe leaving your hands and hitting a target. It’s a special kind of rush.
Montana Nights is closed Mondays, open 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays, open 4:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Patrons are allowed to bring outside food, but no outside drinks are allowed.