Turns out some of the city's escape room experiences have been operating well below board. An FDNY probe sparked by a fatal escape room tragedy in Europe earlier this year has reportedly turned up a frightening range of infractions, including broken sprinkler systems, blocked egress routes, and exits that—rather than depositing customers directly onto the street, in line with regulations—force them to shimmy through an open window and down a foldable ladder. For example.
Escape rooms, for reference, are physical puzzles wherein you and a group of your friends, coworkers, acquaintances, whoever, pay money to have yourselves sealed inside a room, then negotiate your freedom by cracking a series of clues within a prescribed time period. Ideally, staff should be monitoring the situation somehow, ready to let participants out if things get dicey, but that has not always been the case. In January, for example, five 15-year-old girls died in an escape room in Koszalin, Poland, when a fire broke out in an adjacent room and trapped them inside.
According to FDNY Director of Public Communications Jim Long, the department keeps tabs on trends and has clocked steadily escalating interest in escape rooms in New York City. After the disaster in Poland, the department developed a task force to gauge local escape room safety. The findings do not inspire heaps of confidence: From late February through the end of March, investigators handed out nine summonses and issued 21 violation orders after visiting 22 escape rooms in Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. In total, seven businesses have been told to vacate: Four were fully shuttered, and three had some of their rooms shut down.
The businesses that have had either some or all of their game rooms closed include, according to the FDNY:
• Escape the Room NYC (24 West 25th Street in Manhattan)—full vacate order
• Exit Escape Room NYC (246 West 38th Street in Manhattan)—partial vacate order
• Komnata Quest (160 Pearl Street in Manhattan)—full vacate order
• Escape Games NYC (79 Leonard Street in Manhattan)—full vacate order
• Brooklyn Escape Room (594 Pacific Street in Brooklyn)—partial vacate order
(The Post previously reported that Escape Room NYC at 265 West 37th Street in Manhattan also was closed, but according to the FDNY, that site received a summons but not a vacate order.)
Violations typically had to do with exits, and businesses either operating outside of or entirely without a certificate of occupancy and public assembly. The FDNY also identified a number of design concerns, Long said: items like drapery or tapestries that do not meet the fire code, because the venue owner never got them flameproofed or made fire retardant. Some locations lacked fire extinguishers.
One might think that these are all basic things that would be covered and corrected in an inspection conducted before opening day, but according to Long, "That's one of the things here: They've been operating under the radar."
The FDNY said none of the shuttered locations will be allowed to operate until they address the violations, but did not provide a timeline for how long that might take.