Marquette recreational businesses remain open despite pandemic

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Kelby Reichard

As COVID-19 continues to alter society, many Marquette businesses have been able to adapt in order to remain open to students and the general public.

Many indoor recreation businesses have had to rethink their operations in order to stay open. Some of the businesses that are open right now include Superior Entertainment, Edge of Reality Virtual Reality Arcade and Escape Marquette. All three of these businesses shut down for a period of time and reduced their capacity when following executive orders throughout this year. Many Marquette businesses rely heavily upon NMU students as part of their clientele. With COVID-19, however, many businesses have struggled to get people through the door, especially Northern students. 

Robert Shirlin, owner of the Edge of Reality VR Arcade, located at 333B W. Washington St., said that his business has struggled during the pandemic.

“Financially it has been a very huge challenge,” Shirlin said. “We have lost a considerable amount of business during the pandemic.”

 Shirlin added that two major components to this was the dramatic decrease in student customers and the fact that people aren’t simply aware that the VR arcade is open.

Employees have tried to mitigate the risks associated with the virus by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and making safety a priority, he said. 

“We increased our sanitation…so we are now not only using disinfecting wipes for all of our equipment but we are also using UV lights to sterilize or sanitize afterward,” said Shirlin. “Of course, we are all wearing masks as well. All employees of the company are required to wear masks, and social distancing is a little easier here because every group has its own space.”

 He added that now is the “perfect time” to visit the VR arcade.

“People have been locked up for a long time, so get out and explore something new,” he said. “You can go to one location, the Edge of Reality Arcade, and travel all over the world. We can bring you to the Golden Gate Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, put you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, or just have a relaxing time just floating down a river if you prefer. And just about everything in between.”  

Other businesses have taken similar measures to ensure the safest experience possible for their customers. Superior Entertainment, a bowling alley, arcade and restaurant business located at 3060 U.S. Highway 41 West, is one such business. Deana Groop, from Superior Entertainment, mentioned ways that they have been able to alter their approach while providing a quality experience.

These methods included reducing the capacity of people in the bowling alley, wiping down bowling balls, encouraging people to wear gloves when choosing a bowling ball, moving tables in the restaurant to socially distance people, sanitizing the entire arcade after use (which is now available through reservations only), installing plexiglass barriers and more.

“Our goal is to make sure our customers, as well as the staff, feel safe while being in the facility,” said Groop. Because lanes are limited, it is recommended that people make reservations before coming to Superior Entertainment, she said. 

Groop also added that while student turnout has been low for her business too, that should change as the weather gets colder and more people turn to indoor sports. 

“Since we are a very seasonal business we haven’t seen much of a student turnout since reopening but with nice weather still ahead we expect to be slower until the weather changes,” Groop said.

Anna Hemstock from Escape Marquette, located at 130 W. Washington St., also stated that fewer students have been patronizing her business this year than in previous years. As a result, Escape Marquette has found other ways to increase revenue, such as selling t-shirts and creating a new mobile game.  

Escape Marquette has taken steps in the past to ensure a clean environment for their customers, and now they have further increased sanitization procedures. 

Employees at Escape Marquette disinfect and sanitize every single puzzle, prop, and room along with the lobby and open areas in between every appointment, said Hemstock. Guests and staff are required to stay socially distant and wear masks, she added. All appointments are also now private, so that no one will interrupt your experience, Hemstock said. 

For students who are interested in attending these recreational businesses, there are promotions specific to NMU students at each. The Edge of Reality VR Arcade offers $5 off to students when they show their NMU ID. Superior Entertainment offers a free 20 oz. beverage with the purchase of an entrée, and also put students in a raffle to win a free month of bowling every time they show their ID when paying. Finally, Escape Marquette offers 20% of the purchase of your ticket when you mention the discount code “NMU.” For those looking to get out and see a movie, the Marquette Cinemas is also open Friday, Saturday and Sunday with limited capacity. More information can be found on their website at http://www.marquettecinemas.com/