‘We may not survive’ - soft play centres fear permanent closure
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Play barn bosses say there is a serious risk of closure without financial support or permission to reopen.
Soft play is one of the only industries which has not yet received information on when centres might be allowed to return.
Most in Norfolk and elsewhere in the UK have been closed since the middle of March, a few days prior to the introduction of lockdown, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But while many soft play businesses have furloughed staff and received grants, the longevity of the closure has forced more than a dozen across the nation to shut permanently.
Such is the imminent danger that almost 30,000 people have signed a petition urging the government to save the sector.
Sarah Knights, owner of Jump For Joy in Rackheath, says financial backing is paramount if her businesses is to survive.
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“The fact that the closure is now going on for so long is a real concern, and who knows what business will be like when we reopen,” said Mrs Knights.
“I think the main stumbling block for us as an industry is social distancing. There seems to be an acceptance that older children can social distance better than younger children.
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“If the government does not feel we are safe to open we will accept that, but they would need to consider further support. Otherwise, we will not survive.”
Once given permission to reopen, Jump For Joy will operate with a reduced capacity and stringent cleaning regime, while Mrs Knights is also looking into purchasing a chemical fogging machine.
Similar measures are being considered by the management team at Crazy Club, part of Superbowl UK at Castle Quarter, Norwich.
While accepting of the importance of safety, Owen Newton, regional manager at Superbowl UK, believes the industry has been ignored for too long.
“Soft play was the first to close and we will be the last to reopen,” added Mr Newton. “At the moment it’s just a matter of waiting for further advice.
“The government’s main concern is the lack of social distancing, but schools can reopen so what is the issue? I can’t see why soft play can’t return in line with other indoor activities.
“Why pubs and restaurants have been allowed to reopen before indoor activities is beyond me.”