Zoning board gives OK to downtown escape room

Rashad Milligan/Douglas County Sentinel The Douglasville Zoning Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday to approve the use of a building at 8440 E. Courthouse Square for an indoor recreational attraction. The request to bring the escape room now comes to the attention of the city council and will be addressed at the council meetings on Nov. 16 and Nov. 20. Plans are for the business to host three rooms with about eight to 10 people in each room.

A new escape room is one step closer to opening in downtown Douglasville. The Douglasville Zoning Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday night to approve using a building at 8440 E. Courthouse Square for an indoor recreational attraction. The owners of the business are the same owners from the popular Escape Woods in Powder Springs.

If the city council approves the new escape room later this month, Escape Woods would be the third escape room in the county. Escape USA opened on Stewart Parkway in the old Wal-Mart recently and The Hidden Escape opened in Lithia Springs in June.

"I know there is one other escape room that has opened in somewhere else in Douglasville, but not in this immediate area," Escape Woods co-owner Brad Kimmel said. "It brings a lot of family-oriented people. It also draws a lot of people from outside the area, because it's something unique."

Details like parking will be handled when each group makes their appointment online, Kimmel said. As of now, the plan for the business is to host three rooms with about eight to 10 people in each room. The business expects all participants to be over the age of 10. Cameras are in each room, which would be monitored continuously by employees who would step if they see particular groups getting out of control.

Escape Woods is based on a farm that co-owner Brad Kimmel's father-in-law has owned since 1980. Many of the rural area scenes from the popular Netflix series "Stranger Things" were filmed on the farm.

One of the reasons for coming to Douglasville is that at Escape Woods, many visitors ask if there are any nearby places to eat. Kimmel said since there are no restaurants near the Powder Springs location, he advises many of the visitors to come to Douglasville as the nearest place to eat. He said bringing his business to downtown Douglasville allows his customers to spend an entire night in the area by visiting restaurants like Gumbeaux's, Fabiano's, Irish Bred Pub and others.

"If we don't have millennials coming into our town, hanging out here and doing things, this county will die in 20 years," building owner Brandon Thompson said.

One concern that zoning board members Will Smith and Ruth Morgan had was security. Morgan pointed out that all other local escape rooms had a security presence and Kimmel said he didn't plan on bringing in security. Smith said he was concerned about citizens drinking in nearby restaurants and showing up to the escape room intoxicated. The facility won't allow customers who appear to be intoxicated to participate in the game, Kimmel said. Thompson later assured the building would reach its necessary fire safety requirements in another concern from the board members.

Thompson talked to the Sentinel earlier this year about his idea to bring an escape room to the downtown area. In April, Thompson said Escape Woods approached him with an idea for the escape room.

"They have a vision to make this escape room a 1920s downtown Douglasville hotel," Thompson said in April. "[Their idea is] that a band of robbers hijacked the train [across the street], took people hostage, put them in this hotel room and now they have got an hour to escape."

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