Escape rooms and indoor gaming facilities are permanently closing in Toronto
The pandemic is forcing places that offer adult indoor entertainment such as archery tag arenas, escape rooms, trampoline parks, VR arcades among others, to close down permanently.
Due to the very nature of many of these businesses – such as relying on large groups, sharing equipment or being in tight spaces – they are likely to some of the last places to reopen. And with no clear end in sight to the pandemic, some beloved spots haven't been able to hold on.
"It killed us. We had to shut down. We went out of business. We couldn't sustain it any longer," Jonathan Howcroft, co-founder and owner of Toronto Knife Throwing told blogTO.
Toronto Knife Throwing would have been around for almost five years this June but despite available loans and eager comments from league regulars, Howcroft couldn't see a future for his business.
"It's a fickle business already but in these times we didn't have a base of people to jump into this new world that we were going to have enough to float the overhead."
Howcroft told blogTO he's sad to leave this unique business but knows for him it was the right call to make.
Toronto Knife Throwing isn't the only one to close permanently.
"I've seen a lot of my competition and friends in a similar category, one after another going out of business. Brick and mortar is very hard to do now," said Archers Arena owner Sam Lai.
However, unlike Lai's competition, he's still standing. He told blogTO he's been surviving on savings, government loans and sheer optimism; just trying to make the best of the unprecedented situation.
Lai explained that Archers Arena has started offering Nerf gun rentals so people can play at home and are already working on renovations to their facilities so they're ready when the government gives the go-ahead to reopen.
"I have a giant list of things that we've implemented," he explained, pointing toward their blog which outlines the COVID-19 safety measures they've put in place.
For example, they'll be checking participants for a fever before allowing them to play, they've added hospital grade UV lights to sanitize equipment and will be disinfecting the arena hourly with 70% alcohol.
He's also looking to the U.S. for guidance on reopening.
"Having the U.S. open ahead of us and seeing similar business models and what their action plans are is helpful," said Lai.
But while Lai and archery fans might be ready to get back to one of their favourite pastimes, the government keeps pushing the date back.
"My archery community is dying to come back to play. We were supposed to be open June 2nd and now it's the 14th," he bemoaned.
"It's very scary. I would hate to see having to close down. I've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this."
But he's staying positive telling blogTO they've even considered moving their traditionally indoor game to the great outdoors.
"We're thinking of doing a social distance archery thing in the park because we have a big community in Toronto," Lai said, mentioning how the rules for outdoor sports in Ontario have relaxed somewhat.
"We're all just looking forward to doing this again."
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Mystery Room and Awaken Battleground as permanently closed.
Jesse Milns at TKTO
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