Will Lee Road Get the Axe?

Axe-Throwing Venue Slated for Old Booby Trap Property

Will Lee Road Get the Axe?

Two local doctors plan to breathe new life into the 0.6-acre property at 2600 Lee Road, site of the double-domed Club Harem – variously known as the Booby Trap, Club Harem, Club Rio and Christie’s Cabaret — an adult entertainment venue with a lurid history.

The contract to purchase the land from the City for $950,000 was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper casting the dissenting vote. Local vascular surgeons Dr. David Varnagy and Dr. Manuel Perez Isquierdo plan to build an axe-throwing facility where the Booby Trap once stood.

Axe Throwing?

A popular pastime in Canada and a feature in lumberjack competitions, axe-throwing is now gaining popularity in the U.S.  According to Wikipedia, indoor axe throwing is a sport in which the competitor throws an axe at a target, attempting to hit the bulls eye as near as possible. Today there are commercial locations in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom where participants can compete, similar to dart throwing. For a video of axe throwing, follow the link below.


City Buys High . . .

In 2015, the City purchased Club Harem at 2600 Lee Rd. for $990,000, an amount well above market value. Then-Mayor Ken Bradley pushed for the purchase in order to “eliminate alleged illegal activity” at the location. Stories about the building with the breast-shaped roof line include a 2008 undercover police investigation at Club Harem, which led to a lawsuit by its owners against the City. The case was quietly settled in 2011 when the City issued a check for $250,000 to the aggrieved parties.

Sells Low

Explaining her vote against the sale, Commissioner Cooper noted that since 2015, the City has invested around $1 million in the property. She said she thought the City should hold out for a better price. She pointed out that property values in this area have increased by 14 percent in the four years since the City’s purchase. City Manager Randy Knight acknowledged that the City was “not hurting for money” and that there was no pressing need to sell at this time. The City’s broker, Bobby Palta, suggested the City could counter the doctors’ offer with a higher price, but the Commission chose to do neither.

Is Axe-Throwing Conducive to Better Behavior?

In his remarks, Commissioner Todd Weaver wondered if an axe-throwing venue that plans to serve beer and wine was “conducive to better behavior than what was there before.” Even though he expressed concern over mixing alcoholic beverages with axe-throwing, he did vote in favor of the project.

At the time of publication, neither Dr. Perez Isquierdo nor Dr. Varnagy responded to requests for comment.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

  • author's avatar

29 replies
  1. Donald L Thompson says:

    Axe throwing inside a building with no harm to persons outside?? Is that worth discussing when we have greater problems? Traffic, for one. In my recent visit to the north (i.e. Ohio), I find communities encouraging the safe use of “golf cart type vehicles” for inter-neighborhood transport. Let’s talk about that, not axe-c-throwing.

    • Winter Park - 2020 "We're Lumberjacks and We're Okay. We put on women's clothing and hang out in bars" Championship Games says:

      Golf carts, with medical provider logos, will be provided for attendees to move from venue to venue.

      The events include sawing, chopping, logrolling, and speed climbing to test the strength and agility of participants, including city government officials.

      “The Lumberjack Song” (written by Monty Python) will be the theme song of this inaugural event.


      “I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK
      I sleep all night and I work all day
      He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK
      He sleeps all night and he works all day
      I cut down trees, I eat my lunch
      I go to the lavatory
      On Wednesdays I go shopping and have buttered scones for tea
      He cuts down trees, he eat his lunch
      He goes to the lavatory
      On Wednesdays he goes shopping and has buttered scones for tea
      I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK
      I sleep all night and I work all day
      I cut down trees, I skip and jump
      I like to press wild flowers
      I put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars
      He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps
      He likes to press wild flowers
      He puts on women’s clothing and hangs around in bars
      I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK
      I sleep all night and I work all day
      I cut down trees, I wear high heels
      Suspendies and a bra
      I wish I’d been a girlie, just like my dear Papa
      He cuts down trees, he wears high heels?
      Suspendies and a bra?
      He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK
      He sleeps all night and he works all day
      He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK
      Sleeps all night and he works all day”

  2. 2 Axes instead of Body Parts at Entrance of WP? Sounds Perfect for the Evolution of WP's Image! says:

    Just what the city needs to enhance other changes remaking a 1920s resort styled on New England and Venice into an adjunct to International Drive!

    Perhaps the City will put the Digital Christmas Tree next to the Axe Bar Building!

    This symbolism of transformation chosen by the City’s “Re-founders” is indeed astonishing. And at a monetary loss to taxpayers.

    Wow. Just when residents think their SMH is over.

    SMH as many of us continue to plan and implement our exit strategies.

    • No! Wait! says:

      Bloodmobile and billboard advertising the vascular surgeons next door!

      Across the street, a billboard for personal injury lawyers.

  3. LOL says:

    Too bad we sold it, looked like a perfect spot for an “events center”. Nice and convenient to Interstate 4 for all the non-residents benefitting from our new property tax burden.

    We could have put the “events center” there and kept our new library space dedicated to community learning/meeting. How fitting the property’s former glorious design was…… for an unpopular project suckling at the government teat.

  4. Brian Furey says:

    What’s the imperative to sell the property? Why do we want to introduce a Bar/Axe throwing venue
    into Winter Park? Why not hold off for a better price and better use of the property?

  5. no end to stupid says:

    If I were a personal injury attorney, I would be handing out cards at the door and the City would be the first I would sue for allowing lethal weapons and alcohol in the same venue. At shooting ranges, no alcohol is served for obvious reasons. The property should never have been purchased above appraised value from Veigel. Now we are selling below what we paid for it. Bradley, of Advent Health, did not want boobies next to his Emergency center so pushed for the purchase and demolition. If our leaders had imagination, it could have been a mammogram center. Fiscally irresponsible, in an up market, to sell this City asset. Business man Leary gave $1M to another City, ignoring Winter Park needs, and now sells property for entertainment (druken ax throwers at the gateway to our city). Seems just stupid.

  6. Nora French says:

    I am nonplussed. I thought the city purchased the Lee Rd and Fairbanks entrances to the city to beautify these entrances to Winter Park?

  7. Improvement? says:

    Is this an improvement for our Gateway? We were told the purchase of the breast shaped buildings was to cut down on criminal activity, such as drunkness/drug use, saving the City money, even tho the establishment had been closed for a few years. I prefer a bar with the name Booby Trap to a bar with axes. So let me understand: we bought it over appraised value for $990,000 and sold it for under what we paid for it — $950,000 — in an expanding real estate market. Further, we got rid of a bar at our gateway that caused problems and replaced it with a bar that allows axe throwing. Could it be that we need the cash for the ever expanding library/event center/no parking garage project?

    • CJ says:

      At least there’s a convenient Centra Care 50 yards down the road. That’s insane, everyone take the time to watch this video.

    • Just Saying says:

      The competitive sport of Axe throwing has been practiced in the US since 2011. There are currently over 150 venues with 3 in the central florida region alone. In those 8 years, there have been 2 episodes claimed to insurance at these venues. Perhaps what we need is a little more education about an activity that is safer than playing lacrosse and football. Which we not only allow our children to do but we encourage it.

      • SMH - Axe throwing more desirable for children than lacrosse? says:

        Winter Park used to be one of communities included in The Official Preppie Handbook as one of the most preppy cities in the U.S. in the 1980s. Some of us were proud of and identified with this image.

        Now people who may have some discretionary wealth, but no sense of style, are turning Winter Park, once one of America’s most beautiful, gracious and refined cities, into Duck Dynasty/Sons of Anarchy-ville.

        Just hoping that Winter Park High,Trinity, Lake Highland, and Rollins continue to encourage football and lacrosse in lieu of the axe-throwing that some surgeons and city leaders seem to think will enhance the city’s gateway and image.

        Agree with those who consider the “Booby Trap” a better gateway introduction to Winter Park than the “Axe Trap.”

        SMH. Unbelievable.

        • rca says:

          Aside from the obvious safest concerns, insurance issues and overall perception about the City’s transforming image, I am more and more convinced that most architects and designers are graduates from Lego University given that new houses are nothing more than right angles and flat roofs.

          • WP style is now jarringly incongruous says:

            Just showed a friend (visiting from San Diego/Santa Fe) around Winter Park.

            I showed her where family members and I used to lived in respective homes in Virginia Heights. All have been torn down and replaced by weird, boxy monstrosities that seem to have zero lot lines.

            My friend said, “The architecture and the disparate sizes of the houses clash. Nothing fits.”

            I said, “That’s why my sister moved to Longwood, in a subdivision with large lots.”

            My friend’s subdivision in Santa Fe only allows homes on a minimum of 10 acre lots, and her subdivision in San Diego all have 5 acre lots.

            Of course, that is not possible in Winter Park. But allowing code variances that allow building houses up to sidewalks and almost up to roads seems not only ugly, disharmonious, but dangerous.

            Winter Park is no longer a beautiful city. In fact, many houses and streets are now hideous.

            She and I agreed Winter Park was one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., vying with Santa Fe.

            Like many who post at WPV on FB, my family, friends and neighbors are also traveling and have found or are looking for a new places to live in.

            Everyone seems to yearn for what Winter Park was. But at the same time, we are all “so over” the current developer-run tacky invasive species culture (axe bars!) Did these people move here on the hayseed compartment on the Auto-train?) and anti-democratic, snide dictatorial governance.

            Winter Park is no longer an American town that feels like Europe. Now it really looks and feels like the new cheap apartments and houses in subdivisions off I-Drive, and now with an axe-bar, I-Drive itself: “Garish, tacky, in your face, and lacking any sort of originality…Like a ride through endless strip malls…” (TripAdvisor reviews, get ready City of WP…)

          • CTB says:

            So true!!!! And one in particular is celebrated like some kind of genius while I look at his homes and townhomes and think what is so brilliant about some white and gray boxes with the occasional patch of repurposed wood or metal for accent???

          • rca says:

            I often ask myself whether David Byrne, a UK graduate from the RI School of Design, would approve this New Wave construction architecture. But, of course, he would. Will Winter Park? (Oh, go ahead, do a search on him and you’ll understand!)

  8. THOR says:

    Ok–I get it. This is our pitch to Viking-land-tourists from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark. Please feel at home. Drink a few rounds, throw a few rounds, and of course, see our soon-to-be world-class I-Drive Canopy combo project right around the corner on Morse Avenue. It’s all here in Winter Park. Seriously, why sell a city real estate asset for less than market value? Are we having to bankroll the General Fund for Canopy-Library-Events Center (with no parking garage) in anticipation of more budget shortfalls?

    Thor says: Time to lay down the hammer!

  9. Jack says:

    Speaking of the “entry to Winter Park” is anyone as surprised as I am at the massive parking garage that Rollins is building on the South side of Fairbanks? This huge monolithic structure creates an unattractive “tunnel” right at the entrance to historic Winter Park.

    How did this monstrosity ever get approved?

  10. Good Grief says:

    It’s one thing when somebody already owns a property at the gateway and puts up something aimed at Rollins students.

    It is another thing entirely to sell a property AT A LOSS IN AN UP MARKET at the gateway aimed at Rollins students.

    Can’t wait for the bar maidens in Daisy Dukes and Flannel Bras! I thought we bought the property because BOOBS wasn’t the look we wanted for our City’s gateway??!??

    Let’s just sell City Hall to Rollins, along with the library they’ve been bequeathed by the commission. We can move City Hall down to the old Orange Ave property. Then, we will have even more cash for our over budgeted Sir David monument.

  11. Just saying says:

    I’m sure I’ve heard better ideas in my life, but WP is in dire need of a fun activity venue. In all fairness, if you are into doughnuts or cigarettes, you are more likely to lose a limb than throwing axes. I am also positive that driving on I-4 between Lee Road and Fairbanks has a higher risk of tragedy than this will. I just hope they do something nice as the entryway to this fabulous city.
    Just Saying

    • Amazing Insight into the connection between doughnuts, cigarettes, axes, and the City of Winter Park says:

      Great copy for future PR for the City of Winter Park. The reasoning and content superbly reflects that of the current admin.

  12. Anonymous says:

    WHAT? This has to go down as one of the most stupid decisions this Winter Park Commission has made!
    I know about Axe Bars and believe me this is not a place for Winter Park. It is totally inconsistent with the Lee Road corridor leading into the city. Not to mention the dollars spent and the dollars lost on this piece of property. Back when you all discussed a Checkers restaurant in that location, I thought Oh No…that is not what the residents living near by would want at all. You said no to that. That was good. But, now to follow up with approval of this Axe & liquor bar is well…totally Axenine! Is this what Winter Park is going to now. Anything to fill a space and anything for more tax dollars? This whole idea and other unattractive developments that we now have to live with should have been AXED. I am sure next time we have to vote for representation
    in Winter Pak there are going to be changes!


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