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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Camden: Have a drink, throw an ax

By Jim Camden
Published: May 4, 2022, 6:01am

When one nears the end of one’s seventh decade of life, it is probably inevitable to confront things that seemed unthinkable the previous six decades.

Not as unthinkable as self-described patriots storming the U.S. Capitol and assaulting police with poles carrying the American flag, but the kind of thing that makes one say, “Wait. What?”

Which was the reaction last week when checking out the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board’s agenda with a public hearing on rules to allow ax-throwing at bars.

Mixing alcohol and things with sharp edges that are hurled in the air? What could possibly go wrong?

To be fair, ax-throwing has enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years, probably not seen since the Norsemen invaded England about 1,100 years ago. There is a World Axe Throwing League, complete with tournaments, one of which was held in Spokane last year at Jumping Jackalope. The downtown establishment is owned by one of the world’s top ax-throwers, Miguel Tamburini.

When the board first got a request from Blade and Timber, a Seattle establishment that is part of a national chain, to mix alcohol and fast-moving axes, it said no. The business sued, and as part of a settlement the state agreed to a one-year pilot program at Blade and Timber, board spokesman Brian Smith said.

There were no incidents, Smith said. The board held what it calls a “listen and learn” session in February that involved some 65 participants, with comments ranging from members of the public health community who thought it was a bad idea to mix alcohol and ax-throwing to several businesses that wanted a piece of the action.

No one dialed in to the board’s public hearing last week to speak for or against the proposed change. Staff expects to have draft rules by May 11 for liquor establishments that want to have ax-throwing as an “added activity.” They will spell out how such a business must separate the area where liquor is served from the area where axes are thrown, plus a plan for identifying anyone who has consumed too much of the former to engage in the latter.

Places that already have ax-throwing will have to apply for a liquor license with similar requirements.

Tamburini, a certified ax-throwing coach, said he will “100 percent” apply for a liquor license for Jumping Jackalope when the rules are final. Ax-throwing as a sport – not the kind one sees at lumberjack tournaments, but the kind with smaller implements – has been around for years, he said. People need to look at an ax as a tool, not a weapon, he added.

Ax-throwing won’t be the first activity that can result in an injury in a bar. An errant air hockey puck in the bridge of the nose could require rhinoplasty. And whose mother hasn’t warned that being careless with darts can put somebody’s eye out?

If ax-throwing becomes common at bars, one wonders what’s the next new activity the board will be asked to approve.

Maybe liquor establishments that have access to an open field will ask for the green light to set up lists and allow jousting tournaments.

What’s in a name?

The state and the proponents of a proposed ballot measure to ban the capital gains tax on proceeds above a certain level have reached a détente on the ballot title.

Drafters of Initiative 1929 had called it “a 7 percent tax on annual capital gains income above $250,000.” The Washington attorney general’s office, which has the legal duty to draft language for the ballot title and summary, had proposed calling it “a 7 percent excise tax on annual capital gains above $250,000.”

On Thursday, a Thurston County Superior Court judge took out both “excise” and “income.”

The new language says it’s “a 7 percent tax on annual capital gains above $250,000.”

With the ruling, proponents can start printing petitions and gathering signatures. They’ll need at least 324,516 valid signatures from registered voters by July 8.