The rollercoaster year of lockdown for Bassetlaw soft play owner
Her voice cracking across the tannoy whilst telling customers that it was time to leave was an emotional lockdown moment for soft play centre owner Sally Roberts.
Sally had only been reopened for a few weeks when she found herself having to make the heartbreaking announcement that Captain Jack’s Adventure in Retford was closing once again due to lockdown restrictions.
In fact Captain Jack’s has only been open for seven weeks since the coronavirus pandemic hit just over a year ago, resulting in hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost revenue for the family and their 12 members of staff.
Sally who set up the play centre 12 years ago with husband Steve was even forced to take on a job at the B&Q warehouse when the third national lockdown hit to support her family including three children 17-year-old Jack, 16-year-old Emma and Elizabeth, 11, and for her own mental wellbeing.
Sally said: “It has been such a worrying time, even before lockdown was announced people were being told to stay away from places like soft play areas so even though we were not formally told to close we had no customers so we closed two days before we were ordered too, it was such an emotional time for us and the 12 members of staff we employ, we just didn’t know what the future would hold and if the business would survive.
"When we were allowed to reopen we had spent a lot of money on screens, signage and sanitiser dispensers to make everything safe, we missed out on the whole Eat Out to Help Out scheme and were only allowed to reopen in September.
"We started taking bookings and making plans for Halloween and then were told we had to close again two days before Halloween.
"I remember that day when we had to close again my voice broke on the tannoy as I started telling people it was time to go home - we just didn't know what the future held and if we could continue on the emotional rollercoaster of opening and then closing again.”
Sally who decided to take a job at the B&Q warehouse when the third lockdown hit said the government grants and support from Bassetlaw Council had ensured their survival.
"We were hit hard financially as a household and mentally I felt like I couldn't just sit through another lockdown as I’m used to being so sociable at Captain Jack’s so I was missing seeing people,” she said.
"Working at the warehouse has been totally different from my day job but I have been so grateful for the work and to know that financially we would be OK.”
Sally is now preparing to reopen Captain Jack’s on May 17 but will have to wait until June 21 to host parties, which accounts for a third of their business.
She said: "We are very excited to reopen and have our staff back, they are all desperate to come back and luckily thanks to furlough we have been able to hold onto all of our staff members. We are also apprehensive as we’ve been closed for so long and nervous about reopening.
"For us this time of year is usually one of our quietest times as people tend to be going to outside activities now the weather has improved but our customers have been so supportive throughout this and we hope they will come back and support us.”
Captain Jack’s Adventure is scheduled to open on May 17. Visitors must pre-book by visiting www.captainjacksadventure.co.uk
The facility will be open weekdays 10am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 5pm.