It’s tough having a small business that’s been forced to shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and state orders to stay home.
It may be even more difficult when a new business was just about to open for the first time.
It’s like being between a rock and a hard place.
That’s where Tim Osborn is at right now.
His new business, Bullseye Lasertag and Axe Throwing, was set to open at Richland’s Uptown Shopping Center, 1341 George Washington Way, in Suite F.
“We never opened,” he said. “We were looking to open the weekend of March 13-14. We were nearly ready, but the reality is quite different.”
The momentum simply stopped, he said.
“You get 10 people to come. They each tell two or three people, and soon you have 20 to 30 people coming in after finding out about us through word of mouth,” Osborn said.
But Osborn is not giving up.
He said the family’s first business, Red Dot Paintball in Richland, suffered a shutdown in early 2019 when heavy snow hit the Tri-Cities.
Located near the Vantage Highway in Richland, Osborn had to close the business for nine weeks.
“It was all drifting, heavy snow,” he said. “That nearly killed us. I’d assume we’d be somewhere similar in this situation.
“The reality is the buildout (for Bullseye) hit our cash supply,” Osborn said. “We went all in, and we basically lost. We didn’t hit the great royal flush.”
Osborn is obviously not alone in facing this challenge.
There are plenty of small businesses in the Tri-Cities and across the country suffering under the governor’s stay at home order.
But if Osborn can get the new business open in the next few months, he’s confident that customers will have a great time. And the idea of combining axe throwing and laser tag under one roof could be a real attraction.
“We thought it could make for good family entertainment,” he said. “While mom and dad are throwing axes, the kids are playing laser tag.”
Axe throwing is the interesting part in this equation.
“Paintball is mostly a weekend business,” Osborn said. “Laser tag is a weekend business. But axe throwing is for different people who might like to do it on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”
Osborn envisions companies bringing in employees or clients to throw after a work day.
There are four axe lanes with one axe per lane.
“People will be throwing into in-cut blocks of wood,” Osborn said. “The targets are projected.”
Games include tic-tac-toe, zombies’ targets and traditional targets with bullseyes that change location after each round.
An anti-bounce system keeps axes from rebounding back at the thrower.
Lanes have 12-foot dividers to keep the neighboring axe thrower from hitting you.
There is also electronic scoring.
Don’t expect to drink alcohol while throwing your axe.
“Washington state does not allow the alcohol-axe thing,” Osborn said. “But in reality, in a place like the Uptown, there are four bars and lounges in the mall, and another two bars across the street.”
But you can still make a night of it.
“If you look at the Uptown, it doesn’t really start to get busy on Fridays until around 9:30 p.m., 10 p.m. at night,” Osborn said. “For instance, you can have dinner at the Emerald of Siam, come throw some axes, then go somewhere around here and have a drink. Everything is in walking distance.”
Axe throwing rates are $15 for 30 minutes; $20 for 60 minutes; $30 for 90 minutes; and an additional 30-minute extension is $10.
There are private group rates, too.
People as young as 16 can throw axes with an on-site parent or guardian present.
Throwers must arrive 15 minutes before the reservation time slot to receive a safety briefing and throwing instructions, as well to verify waiver forms and settle the balance.
There are plans for couples’ tournaments and league events down the road.
The laser tag arena is 3,000 square feet “with a lot of UV lighting,” Osborn said.
Laser tag prices for single players ages 8 and older are $10 for one game (20 to 40 minutes) and $20 for a triple game (60 to 90 minutes).
The business also can accommodate birthday party groups.
For now, though, Osborn has to play the waiting game that other small business owners do.
If he can open and get customers through the door, he’s pretty confident the business will flourish.
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