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May 10, 2024

Slingshot gallery seeks permit for Bristol location Fork + Band Slingshot is seeking a special permit to open in Bristol.

“This is not the Bart Simpson version of slingshot.”

That’s the disclaimer offered by Andrew “Andy” Cislo, Ph.D., who is seeking a permit to operate an indoor slingshot shooting gallery in downtown Bristol.

Cislo is the owner of Fork + Band Slingshot, which includes not only a shooting gallery but also a retail shop selling slingshots and accessories. He has applied to the Bristol Zoning Commission seeking a special permit to open and operate the shop in vacant space he hopes to lease at 99 Main St. The application is scheduled to be received and accepted Monday evening and scheduled for a future public hearing.

The location includes about 3,200 square feet of space adjacent to Biker’s Edge Cycle Store, and includes 16 parking spaces.

A New Jersey native, Cislo opened a “pop-up” shooting gallery at the mall in Meriden last November, but it closed in February. He is seeking a permanent space and told the Hartford Business Journal on Friday that his search led him to Bristol.

“We just liked Bristol because it seems, in speaking with people representing the city, that there’s a little bit of excitement in the air,” he said. “We hope to become a destination.”

F+B offers slingshot target shooting games and sports. Cislo said the shooting gallery is appropriate “for ages 5 to 95” and designed for safe and rewarding play — and not as a place to take out pent up aggression.

“We’re the new face of slingshot,” Cislo said. “We’re simply doing it our way. What you don’t find is aggression. There are no targets that represent people, animals, buildings, cars or anything like that. This is the ‘out-with-family’ version, or the ‘trying-to-impress-your-date’ version.”

He admits the focus reflects his Ph.D. in sociology, which he earned at Florida State University. He worked as a researcher in the area of “quantitative mental health on a population level,” he said.

He was already a fan of slingshot, which he said is a popular recreational activity and competitive sport outside of the United States, when he suffered a “major health setback.” He more fully developed his fandom into a hobby that included learning to build slingshots and related equipment.

“I took a look at what I was doing and decided that I think I’d be happier with a different course in life,” which led to the decision to open the shooting gallery, he said.
The proposal for the Bristol location would accommodate 16 players per session. Participants register in advance online, with sessions typically beginning on the hour. Parents or guardians may observe without participating.

According to the application, guests must sign waivers for play and are required to wear safety glasses. Each player receives instruction on using the slingshots, which are fitted with lightweight latex bands that use rubber training ammo. Setups are customized for each player.

The location will also feature a retail store carrying slingshot frames and accessories, though no slingshots will be sold to minors.

The gallery will not include a food or beverage service, but will sell a selection of packaged snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, Cislo said. 

According to the application, regular hours would be Thursdays and Fridays 4-10 p.m., Saturdays noon to 10 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.. It adds that operating hours may be added to accommodate private or special events, most often during school breaks, More information is available on its website.

Cislo added that he has in the past worked with the criminal justice system and hopes to expand his business at some point to include programs for at-risk youth.

“I would like to grow the business to be of some public service that would bury those interests of mine in mental health,” he said. “Particularly for young at-risk people, and then build programs to have a safe place for people who are facing troubles to go.”

The Bristol Zoning Commission meeting on Monday is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the council chambers in City Hall.

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