How to Start an Axe Venue,
So you have decided you want to start an axe venue….now what? Well, there are a lot of details to sort through and questions that you may need to have answered. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. From choosing a location to picking a market, we can walk you through the process of opening your very own axe venue.
Choosing a Venue
Your choice of venue is going to be the foundation of your business. So finding the right fit can be a pretty daunting undertaking. There are a variety of considerations to make. What should the layout look like? What ceiling height do you need? What do commercial leases look like? And these are just a few of the things that you may be wondering about!
- Venue Size
Well, first and foremost, you will want to choose a venue size. You can base this on the number of lanes you plan on having. Now, there is an argument to be made for as few as 2 lanes (4 targets), but in our experience, you will want to have at least 4 lanes (8 targets). This will ensure that your venue has a real chance to make a self-sustaining amount of revenue.
So, if 4 lanes are your baseline, then you can increase your plan to accommodate a larger number of lanes based on external factors. Your area’s population and the preexisting competition will be the most important things to consider. For instance, if you are located in a larger urban city center that has minimal competition, the sky will be the limit when it comes to lanes. In fact, there are venues in North America that have as many as 30 lanes in their facilities.
Some of this is definitely more of an art than a science, so there is no exact right or wrong answer.But now that you know the minimum amount of lanes, you should have a good frame of reference to help you choose a number of lanes that suits your region.
- Venue Location
After you have chosen the number of lanes that you want to establish, you should think about the area of town where you want to set up. There are three schools of thought on this, but my recommendation is to pick an area and go all in on it.
Some venues operate in industrial park regions where the rent tends to be cheaper. These venues tend to have a larger number of lanes and can focus on leagues, which leaves weekends to customers that are not league members. This particular style has been very successful for several companies, but you will want to ensure that you feel comfortable generating a large number of leagues at a single venue.
You can also get away with not having a liquor license at this type of venue.However, we recommend getting one, no matter what type of venue you choose to open. Of course, city bylaws or state laws can limit this possibility, but we will get into that later.
Another option is to choose a more centralized location in a core area, like downtown. This style of venue has also been proven to be quite successful for many, including us, as you can appeal to a broader audience of people.
You will likely attract more casual customers in this type of location and, therefore, can be less dependent on league members. A casual customer base is going to be much more profitable. However, it is also going to be much less stable than relying on league members.
Plus, league members are great ambassadors of your business and will likely bring in more people over time. They also tend to sign up repeatedly, unlike the casual customer who is going to patronize your venue much less consistently. .
Therefore, if you go this route, make sure you have a liquor license. You should also have a keen understanding of marketing, as these customers are more expensive to get back through the door time after time. That being said, even if you focus on casual patrons, I would still encourage having a league too. Choose a slower night of the week for leagues, such as Mondays or Tuesdays.
Regardless of the venue you choose, the lane dimensions will stay the same. Therefore, the only changing variables will be the size of your bar as well as storage, the entrance, and your bathrooms.
The level of bar selection that you choose has several implications. Are you just doing cans of beer? If so, that’s great because all you will need is a fridge. But, if you want to have beer on tap, then you will need a kegerator, which is a self-contained system that beer kegs go in to stay cool and hook up to your taps. You could also go with a keg fridge, which is a walk-in cooler where your kegs can be stored in. Though, if you choose the latter option, you will need to run beer lines from the fridge out to where the taps are in your bar.
Also, if you decide that you want to serve liquor and spirits as well, then you will need an ice machine. You may also find it necessary to invest in a dishwasher too. With either piece of equipment, you will need to consider electrical and plumbing.
In terms of lanes, the absolute minimum width should be 8.5 feet. That being said, I would recommend closer to 11 or 12 feet to be comfortable. From there, the lane should run 22 feet back from the target to the closest space that a spectator can stand. Most companies build barriers here to ensure the customers stay at least 22 feet back. You’ll also want a minimum of 6 additional feet behind the barrier after that to ensure that your customers have enough space and don’t feel cramped. However, if you can put even more space, it’s even better.
No matter what type of venue you’re running, you will need storage. Things like extra wood, fridges, mop buckets, etc., all need a home. Plus, you may need an area to draw targets. So you should decide on a space that can accommodate all of this, and include it in your choice of venue.
You will also want a place in the front for your customers to enter, get their bearings, and learn what they will need to do next. I suggest setting up a waiver station at this entrance. Our software has waivers included, and they can be brought up on tablets or iPads. Additionally, make sure that your customers have enough space to sign their waivers, pay, or do whatever else they may need to do without it being too congested.
This may seem like an easy and obvious one, but the number and size of your bathrooms will almost always have a direct correlation to the number of people that you are allowed to have in your venue. So a baseline to keep in mind is that for every 49 people or less, you will need 2 bathrooms with 1 toilet in each. This is not universal, but it is definitely a good rule of thumb.
Last Bits of Advice
Your ceiling height should be at least 11 feet. We have tried to use shorter, but it can be dicey, especially if you’re using bigger axes. Also, try to learn a bit about HVAC, like does your property have it or will it need it? Typically, large commercial venues will require HVAC, which can be incredibly expensive, so make sure that you know about it.
Negotiating a Lease
Once you have chosen what type of business you want to be and you have an idea of the size it will need to be, you may be left wondering, how does a commercial lease work? Well…..welcome to the wild wild west.
Unlike residential leases, commercial leases are largely unregulated by any sort of governing body. Essentially, whatever is in the contract is enforceable. Therefore, we highly recommend hiring a lawyer to review your leases before signing.
There are also a few things to know when discussing the finer points of the lease:
- Leasehold Improvements
Landlords will often contribute a certain amount of cash or free rent for leasehold improvements, especially if it’s for universally necessary things, such as building a bathroom. Don’t be afraid to ask about these.
- Fixturing Period
Although there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to commercial real estate, most landlords provide a fixturing period in which you can take over the property and do the work necessary to open your business, without being charged rent. The rule of thumb for this is that for every 5 years of the lease, you should get 3 months free. We have seen more, and we have seen less, so again, don’t be afraid to ask.
- Length of Lease
There is no standard for a lease length, but you can generally count on it being at least 3 years, and typically, it will look more like 5 years 10-year leases are also not uncommon, so be aware of this and be ready for it when you are entering negotiations. It never hurts to ask for a shorter lease if that’s what you want. But in order to make it worth everyone’s while, we would suggest at least 3 years.
- Personal Guarantees
This is the side of commercial real estate most people are unaware of, and it can be pretty scary when they are first faced with it. Most landlords – especially larger and more established ones- will ask for a personal guarantee for some amount of time of the lease. This is all negotiable, but please keep in mind that this means if you don’t pay your rent, then the landlord can go after your personal assets.
Remember that everything is negotiable in a commercial lease. Don’t be afraid to get creative.