Escape Plan LIVE in Chatham at risk of closing due to Covid-19 fears
Time is running out for a tourist attraction that has been hit hard by the pandemic – as owners urge people to support them and other local businesses before it’s too late.
Escape Plan LIVE at Sun Pier House, Chatham is at risk of closing if more visitors do not pass through its doors in the coming weeks.
Co-owner Ross Friday made a heartfelt appeal on social media telling people that without support there will soon be no live escape plan, which would be “devastating”.
He posted online: “We needed an amazing December to help undo the damage caused by closures and restrictions, but the latest variant of the Covid-19 virus meant we were awfully quiet again at this point. which should be our busiest time of the year.
“We’ve worked hard for seven years to build our small family business, and it’s devastating to see it go.
“We understand that some people have to be careful, and those who absolutely have to be. But please, if you can, book a game and come and support us before it’s too late.
“The same goes for similar businesses. Please visit your local pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues if you can now, or you won’t have any left over to enjoy later.”
Ross, who runs the attraction with his wife Sandra, told KentOnline they were due to renew the lease at Sun Pier House in March but needed trades before then in order to stay.
They have already had to downsize and now run the business with the help of an intern.
On an ordinary pre-Covid Saturday, the rooms would have had between 16 and 20 reservations. Last Saturday, they only had four.
Ross said overall bookings are down 80% and the ones they get are from far fewer people, so with visitors paying per person, that means far less revenue.
He explained: “We do the same whether the booking is for two people or 12. The bookings we tend to get now are couples or at best a family, so they barely cover salaries.”
Ross said the loss of larger group bookings for office outings over Christmas in 2020 and 2021 has hit them hard.
He added: “The business is heavily dependent on Halloween and Christmas. Halloween wasn’t too bad – not great, but we did well enough to hope things would improve.
“But then the [Covid] the advice changed – things were able to stay open but we were told to stay home – and people were worried about the new variant, which I fully understand.”
Ross said they need to overcome the perception that escape rooms aren’t safe.
Being locked in a confined space during a pandemic may not seem like the best choice – but Ross says it’s just as safe as going to the supermarket or having a meal with friends.
He said: “People tend to come here with a group of people that they socialize with anyway – people often come before or after a meal or lunch – so these are people you spend the day with.
“Visitors wear a mask all the time – I wear a mask to greet them and let them in, I don’t come within 2 meters of the group. The rooms are disinfected between each booking, and you don’t mingle with no one outside of your reservation.”
The attraction which was previously based in Fort Amherst in Chatham, offers a number of different escape experiences – The Seance, What the Dickens, The Witching Hour, The Clink, Air Raid and Classified. You have one hour to escape the room by finding clues and solving puzzles.
One of their recent regular clients is a teacher who brings in different groups of students each week and does the escape room with them to see how good they are at solving problems outside of the classroom.
If you want to know more about experiences and book, click here or search EscapePlanLive on Facebook.