OC Planners Approve Midtown Escape Room

OCEAN CITY – In yet another example of diverse activities for residents and visitors, resort planners this week approved a conditional use application for a captive escape room at a midtown location that was formerly Hall’s Restaurant.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday had before them a conditional use request for a captive escape room in a portion of a facility that for years housed Hall’s Restaurant at 59th Street. Captive escape rooms have steadily increased in popularity in recent years, and the proposal for the 59th Street location would be a family-friendly activity, or an activity geared toward groups or corporate team-building events.

The applicant for the conditional use already operates a similar escape room in the downtown area on Baltimore Avenue, and the proposed 59th Street location would complement the existing business with a different twist. The activity requires groups of individuals solving a series of clues to advance to the next room in the multi-room game.

The existing downtown captive escape room is called Dracula’s Castle and, as the name implies, requires participants to solve clues to expose the famous vampire once and for all. The proposed new captive escape room at 59th Street would be called Pieces of Eight, and would require teams of participants to solve clues and move on to the next room in order to escape the ship of the famous pirate Black Beard, according to the company’s website.

At the outset of Tuesday’s public hearing on the conditional use application, Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy explained the proposed business meets the zoning requirements for the location and there is amply parking. Gordy outlined for the commission the basic premise of the business plan.

“Basically, they are looking to be able to put in a captive escape room,” she said. “As you are aware, there have been several where they have these different rooms for an activity for teams or groups. This one is for ages 13 and up and anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The game includes mysteries that unlock the next room. The doors are unlocked at all times and you can leave any time you wish.”

Applicant Shawn Bauer further explained the concept.

“It’s an interactive game, almost a human video game,” he said. “The rooms are living, breathing puzzles that people have to work their way through. It’s for a lot of families and a lot of corporates. Nothing is ever locked behind you and you’re never locked in a room. It’s well lit and there is nothing dangerous or threatening in any way.”

With little debate, the planning commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation for the conditional use request to the Mayor and Council.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.