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Pleasanton council approves permit for new ax-throwing lounge

Also: City joining East Bay Community Energy, speed limit drop on Independence Drive

Pleasanton is poised to become home to the Tri-Valley's first ax-throwing lounge in the coming months after the City Council on Tuesday confirmed a conditional use permit for the new recreational game and bar venue to open in the Valley Plaza shopping center.

The unanimous decision capped a nearly 90-minute public hearing during which council members heard from a dozen residents, mainly in favor of the Limitless Axes & Ales proposal, and then debated final safety standards and other operational limitations to be imposed by the city.

"Welcome to Pleasanton," Mayor Jerry Thorne said after the vote to applicant Michael Hill, who was joined in the council chamber audience by a small group of supporters, some of whom donned Limitless T-shirts.

Aiming to capitalize on the growing popularity of ax-throwing as a corporate event, hobby or evening-out activity, Hill -- who also operates Limitless Escape Games in Livermore -- seeks to open an ax lounge in Valley Plaza, which is located at the northwest corner of Santa Rita Road and Valley Avenue.

"Family-friendly activity: I feel like there's really a need here in Pleasanton for this," Hill told the council. "Corporate team-building ... a complementary business, supporting the local economy. People want this. People are looking for new entertainment."

Limitless Axes & Ales would occupy Suites A and B in the multi-tenant commercial building at the western edge of the shopping center, inside the units where Monument Car Parts will soon close its doors.

The Planning Commission signed off on the ax lounge's use permit in a 4-1 vote on Aug. 14 following a discussion that centered on the proposed location, safety standards and operational strategy. That would have represented the city's final approval of the project, until Vice Mayor Karla Brown on Aug. 20 called for a full council review of the application, saying she'd fielded concerns from residents and business owners in the area.

The council's conversation Tuesday focused on similar topics as the commission's debate -- patron safety, alcohol sales and operational plans.

In the 4,300 square feet, Limitless Axes & Ales would feature seven throwing lanes with two targets each, a bar serving beer and wine, seating areas, a lobby and restrooms. Each lane would be fenced in to prevent thrown axes from going into other lanes or elsewhere in the building.

There would be two throwers per lane at a time, tossing the ax end-over-end toward different targets watched by a "coach," an employee who would provide step-by-step directions and safety oversight, according to city staff.

A viewing area behind the lane could accommodate up to 10 people total. The bar would sell beer, wine and snack foods.

The majority of the dozen citizen speakers told the council they supported Hill's proposal, including the possibility of catering to Scouts and other youth groups, and allowing beer and wine sales during all business hours -- likening the venue to a bowling alley or bocce center.

Comments expressing concern centered on alcohol use when combined with ax-throwing, and the lounge opening in a neighborhood shopping center as opposed to a corporate or industrial park.

"We've been on this journey for two years now, researching to no end about this ... making sure that we're going to open a top-of-the-line facility that Pleasanton would be extremely proud of," Brook Hill, wife of the applicant, told the council.

"He is meeting the needs of a more diverse entertainment in our city, which we hear often from not only our citizens but our other corporate clients here," said Steve Van Dorn, CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. "And it provides more jobs."

"I'm in favor of it. Bottom line: I'm in favor of it, but I'm concerned about the alcohol stuff," said Christina Nystrom Mantha, a resident living near Valley Plaza who said she went to an ax lounge in Berkeley recently to try it for herself amid the debate near her neighborhood.

"The issue really is location and the alcohol. We feel that the location, that it would be more appropriate to be in a corporate park," said Robert Gonella, representing the Danbury Park Homeowners Association. He added that a few neighbors "were afraid to be here, so I'm speaking for them."

In the end, the council approved the use permit with a 5-0 vote while adding a few other conditions, including limiting alcohol sales to two drinks per person per throwing session, mandating one coach per lane, requiring a parent- or guardian-signed waiver for youth, and setting a minimum participant age of 13 years old unless the reservation is part of an organized youth group activity, in which case the age could go down to 10 years old.

Hill has said he hopes to open by the end of the year.

In other business

* The council voted unanimously to initiate the process of allowing the city to join East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), a community choice aggregation (CCA) program of municipalities in Alameda County that offers alternative electricity sources for their residents and businesses.

EBCE has the ability to procure electricity from clean, renewable energy sources on behalf of ratepayers, according to city staff. PG&E still delivers the power, maintains the grid and manages the billing, and electricity customers would have the option to opt out of EBCE and remain with PG&E as their exclusive provider.

The joint powers authority (JPA) was formed in October 2016 among the county and all cities except Pleasanton and Newark, with the Pleasanton City Council taking a wait-and-see approach and asking city staff to return with a recommendation after EBCE operated for one year.

That first year in operation is wrapping up, and city staff recommended opting Pleasanton into the program. The city's registration process would need to be completed soon in order to receive EBCE service by 2021.

"Council's decision to move forward on joining EBCE now will not only meet the city's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but will also meet the deadline for the city to receive service by 2021 to ensure the CCA can procure sufficient energy to meet demand for the coming year," City Manager Nelson Fialho said in a statement after the council vote.

The council is expected to take the next steps -- an EBCE ordinance and a resolution -- next month.

* The council's seven-item consent agenda included the final reading of the city's new massage ordinance, authorizing the speed limit on Independence Drive to decrease from 30 mph to 25 mph and eliminating the Tri-Valley transportation development fee for new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and second dwelling unit construction in Pleasanton.

As part of consent, council members also approved of a $429,738 contract with Goodland Landscape Construction to rebuild concession stand No. 2 at Ken Mercer Sports Park, and they accepted a $500,000 donation to the city's library fund from Workday Inc. and the Workday Foundation.

"The city of Pleasanton takes great pride in being the home of leading innovative companies like Workday, and we are grateful for the partnership and joint accomplishments we have achieved together for the betterment of our community. This generous gift further demonstrates the commitment and investment Workday has made in Pleasanton," Fialho said in a statement.

"We look forward to a new library -- whether it be at the civic center or a new location -- with sufficient space and adaptability that will allow us to meet the needs of our community now and well into the future," he added.

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 18, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Good move that they approved the ax lounge. I don't think I'll ever go myself, but we should have a more diverse set of options. I do hope they figure out the alcohol thing...


8 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Sep 18, 2019 at 4:08 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

I agree with the "Ax Lounge", but you all need to ask questions and do your research when it comes to the EBCE decision.

"EBCE has the ability to procure electricity from clean, renewable energy sources on behalf of the ratepayer (you can already do that with PG&E)...PG&E still delivers the power, maintains the grid, and manages the billing...." So why would we need a new level of government to manage what is already being done? PG&E had already met CA's 2020 Renewable Energy Goals in 2017...ahead of time.
Government overreach...yes, more government jobs...yes, more salaries...yes, new pensions...yes. So if they promise, and that's a big "if", to save you a little over 1% on your electric bill you'll probably wind up paying more for the salaries, benefits, and pensions.
The only way they could get away with this is that most people don't pay attention and they have an automatic enrollment and then they offer you an opt out...but their opt out notices look like junk mail and so people are surprised. It should be opt in not opt out. I will opt out...I don't like to be forced into something just because low level politicians think something is good for me.
Watch the podcast of last night's meeting and I think you will see that the council has already made up their minds.


5 people like this
Posted by Charlie Brown
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:25 am

Ah, nothing like a good stuff belt and a sharp ax, family fun for sure.


6 people like this
Posted by A Shame to lose monument Auto Parts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:47 am

They are really helpful, reasonably priced, and convenient.
Apparently this is the only one that they rent, don't own.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bunyun
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:40 am

axes are a tool, not a game. now ice cream , cotton candy and bread makers - thats a different story. i’d have no issue throwing one of those at a target.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Sep 22, 2019 at 12:46 am

What have you done? The owner of this business in not responsible when it comes to alcohol and the saftey of his employees. Now youve given an irrisponsible man, with power, axes... I pray no one gets gurt.


2 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 22, 2019 at 7:50 am

Will now have a 2nd option for defending myself from home invasions, great opportunity for improving my axe throwing skills comes in handy when you have emptied your magazine clip and they are still trying to kick down my reinforced front door!! Thugs and hoodlums be aware we are taking our town back.


3 people like this
Posted by Lizzie Borden
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 23, 2019 at 9:55 am

Sarah is right. When irrisponsible men are given power and axes, people get get gurt. And don't get me started on the saftey.


2 people like this
Posted by Margo Tarver
a resident of Las Positas Garden Homes
on Sep 24, 2019 at 10:17 am

Alcohol and throwing sharp objects is NOT a good mix! Karla Brown, Vice Mayor and my realator is the only one with common sense on the present council.


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 24, 2019 at 10:56 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

There is an axe throwing place a family member went to in Vegas. Axes, yes. Booze, no. In Vegas.


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