A LONG-ESTABLISHED play centre which spent thousands on safety measures before reopening just ten days before strict tier three restrictions came into force will be forced to close for good - unless vital funding is supplied to secure its future.
Gillian Kirk and Louise Austin set up Playmania, which is based in Elsecar Heritage Centre, more than 15 years ago - but they admit its future is now in doubt due to a lack of support.
As the new tier three restrictions were put in place last week, the play centre was among the victims and closed again just ten days after they spent thousands on keeping the area Covid-safe.
Gillian told the Chronicle: “We were forced to close because of the new restrictions. This is obviously hard because we haven’t got any income and haven’t since March.
“It’s not looking good and we just don’t know when we’re going to be able to reopen - without the help and support from the government we won’t be able to continue.
“We’re currently trying to find out what kind of support we can have but it doesn’t look like there’s any help for centres such as ours.”
The venue - a firm favourite for Barnsley kids’ birthday parties - employs 20 staff but Gillian worries there is a real danger of job cuts.
“We’ve done our very best to keep all our staff on - there were four people who left at the start but we’ve tried all we can to keep people employed,” she added.
“There’s been no income since March and obviously there’s been continuous running costs for us in that time - we’ve been spending thousands every month just to keep open.
“In our time we’ve gone through a recession and we were flooded back in 2007 but there’s been nothing like this before.”
Gillian feels that the current restrictions are unfair on play centres as they are able to clean the equipment quickly, though gyms are still able to open under the new measures.
“We put such an effort in to open again and we spent a lot of money on making sure that we’re Covid-safe, and a lot of money on a new booking system, for us then to be forced into closing,” Gillian said.
“We can clean up our equipment really well and quickly so it seems unfair and it doesn’t make much sense that some gyms are allowed to remain open.”
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock urged the government to step up to provide much-needed cash to soft play centres such as Playmania.
“This year has been incredibly difficult for many local businesses,” she added. “After being forced to close during the first lockdown, some have now been forced to close again due to the new restrictions which have come into force.
“Businesses such as Playmania in Elsecar were viable before this crisis and they will continue to be viable when this pandemic is over.
“The government must now step up and provide financial support for local businesses which have been affected by the new restrictions, so that they are not forced to close permanently through no fault of their own.
“If any local businesses are struggling and would like my support, please do get in touch with me.”
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Popular kids’ play area’s future plunged into doubt
Author: Jack Tolson
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