Fear of coronavirus may impact escape room income drastically, an owner warned today.
With bans on mass gatherings being enforced across Europe, including a ban on gatherings over five people in Austria, many small business owners are afraid for their future.
Simon Taylor, owner of Cryptology Sheffield, said he was preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.
“The worst-case scenario is my business goes under. That’s an awful prospect – I’ve got kids and wife. Potentially, it could impact us more than anything and that’s a horrible thought,” he said.
He said the escape room industry has concerns both about the virus itself and its impact on their success. Many have taken extra precautions including sanitising locks and rooms before and after every game.
“Even though we clean the rooms, customers might think there’s a direct link between them and the previous team, so it will be tough, especially if there’s a ban on mass gatherings,” he said.
Mr Taylor said growing fears of being in crowds may cause a loss of business. Given that escape rooms require direct contact between staff and customers, this could drive away people with concerns about the virus.
To counteract this, the government is giving out £3,000 grants to small businesses which don’t pay business rates.
For escape room owners like Mr Taylor, this grant could be crucial for keeping Cryptology open.
If it gets to the point where we have to be closed for 1-2 months, this grant could keep us afloat, otherwise we will use it to improve the games and come out stronger on the other side.
Mr Taylor said he felt let down by the government’s lack of information about the virus and access to grant provisions.
“I feel as though daily updates should have been given from the beginning to prevent the spread of misinformation. Panic will happen regardless so the government needs to inform people on a daily basis,” he said.
As well as giving assurance that rooms are completely safe, Mr Taylor recomended customers wishing to play escape rooms book vouchers and come at a time where they feel comfortable.
He said: “Until the government advice changes, escape rooms are a safe environment and we take every precaution to ensure customers are safe.”