One of the owners of Highcross indoor bouldering centre Social Climbing has spoken out against the Government’s decision to keep gyms in the city closed as part of the local lockdown restrictions.
Following the latest review of lockdown measures in the city, the Government announced on Friday, August 28, that current restrictions will remain in place until the next review due to take place by September 11.
This means gyms – including climbing centres – plus swimming pools and soft play areas will need to remain closed for the time being, and restrictions on certain beauty treatments will continue.
In addition, people must not meet others from different households in homes or private gardens unless they have already formed a social bubble.
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Friday’s announcement is a massive blow to the owners of Leicester’s indoor bouldering centre Social Climbing, which has now been closed for more than five months.
With other indoor attractions in the city such as miniature golf allowed to open, the owners say the decision does not make sense. They believe the Government has forgotten about the businesses such as theirs, that are trying to solve our growing obesity and mental health problems.
Following the latest lockdown announcement, Ben Prior – one of the four owners of Social Climbing – told LeicestershireLive:
“We are all deeply frustrated. The Government has always said that they base their decision-making on science, but we cannot see any evidence of that.
“Indoor attractions such as miniature golf, which is also a sporting activity, are allowed to open, but climbing walls must remain shut.
“Having invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into this project, watching it stagnate and potentially fail is very upsetting.”
Talking about how the long period of closure has affected the business, Ben continued: “As well as the obvious financial impact of not having any revenue for over six months, the biggest impact is on the staff.
“We have built a fantastic team over the two years of being open and this extended closure has a big impact. They are of course nervous not only about Covid, but also their jobs being stable moving forward.
“As of yet we have not had to make any redundancies, however the Government has now started to unwind the furlough scheme. As a business, we now have to cover all National Insurance and pension contributions, and from September they are reducing the amount of money that they will pay our staff.
“We appear to have been forgotten and just left to rot by the Government.”
Social Climbing, which launched in September 2018, aims to be somewhere guests can enjoy both climbing and socialising.
The climbing surface – which is 4.5m high – can be explored through a variety of different routes, according to your ability.
It has a retro theme is inspired by 1970s rebel climbers The Stonemasters, who pioneered climbing without ropes.
Despite having no reopening date in sight, the centre is ready to safely reopen as soon as it is allowed to do so.
“We have invested a significant amount of money into PPE for all our staff, perspex screens to protect our customers, and tens of litres of hand sanitiser,” said Ben.
“We have engaged a health and safety consultant to create specific risk assessments and train our staff to allow us to mitigate the risks as far as possible.
“There have been studies done to suggest that the virus does not live on chalky surfaces. Like any Covid experiments they are in their early stages, but we are yet to see Covid outbreaks affect climbing walls like they have pubs, for example.”
“We hope that the Government understands what they are doing to leisure businesses in and around Leicester that have no way of making any money and provide valuable physical and mental wellbeing to thousands of people.
“We need more financial support if they are choosing to force us to stay closed, and at the very least understand the decisions that they are making, because there is no evidence that gyms in other countries have caused flare-ups – so why are they stalling re-opening ours?”