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Escape rooms shut amid confusion over virus rules

Escape Rooms

The venues are popular for team building

Escape rooms in Scotland, the popular corporate and party games activity, have been forced to close amid confusion over their official status.

Industry leader Escape, which has a 200-room global operation headquartered in Scotland, has been advised it may be classed in the same group as theatres and concert venues.

In England, similar escape rooms – including the 22 venues operate by Escape – have been formally categorised as visitor attractions following engagement between trade body UKHospitality and the UK Government, ensuring they can open safely.

While official clarification is being sought from the Scottish Government, Escape has already cancelled all bookings and today took the decision to close the doors of its six Scottish venues – although many of its competitors currently remain open.

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There are 38 escape room premises across Scotland, with an estimated turnover of £4.5m and about 250 jobs. They are popular with companies for team building and other corporate get-togethers.

Most re-opened around the same time as other similar attractions such as The Edinburgh Dungeon, with Scottish Government guidance stating visitor attractions with physical distancing and advance ticketing could re-open from 15 July.

Escape – which was the first operator to launch in Scotland in 2014 – re-opened its six premises on 1 August after obtaining certificates to meet the COVID-19 industry standard in partnership with the national tourist organisations of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and introducing strict cleaning and social distancing routines, online bookings only, and rules that require customers to play privately in their own teams.

It isn’t a level playing field when similar visitor attractions have been allowed to re-open

– Daniel Hill, Escape

If the situation is not resolved, premises may remain shut until mid-September.

Escape founder Daniel Hill said: “We were so excited to re-open to customers after putting so much hard work into making our premises completely safe.

“It’s upsetting that we’ve got to close down once again, leaving our staff in limbo and making the future of this important industry uncertain.

“It isn’t a level playing field when similar visitor attractions have been allowed to re-open. 

“Escape rooms clearly should not be classified the same as theatres or concert venues – we’re visitor attractions where participants do not mix with other customers, the rooms are private spaces, there are no actors, and there is only minimal and brief socially-distanced contact with one employee.

“There’s a misunderstanding of our industry, so we’re engaging constructively with the Scottish Government and hope officials will quickly give the go-ahead to allow us to re-open once again.”

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