HARLEM — A Harlem business that locks its patrons in rooms with just 60 minutes for them to figure out an escape route is hoping to re-open next month after a fire.
Hoodwinked Escape at 151 W 116th St had to close after a Dec. 11 blaze in its basement caused thousands of dollars of damage.
“We had to cancel of a lot of the holiday parties and birthdays,” said Michele Ware, the founder.
“A guy was going to propose to his girlfriend on Christmas Eve.”
The business' chic lounge area is filled with broken lamps, dusty furniture and scattered debris after firefighters ripped through its walls to douse the fire. Ware launched a GoFundMe campaign in an effort to raise $40,000 to get the business up and running by mid- to late-January, she said.
She said after the fire she realized she did not have the proper insurance to cover much of the damage, particularly the furniture.
The building’s landlord will help with some of the restoration, but the rest needs to be covered by the business, she said.
Ware founded Hoodwinked Escape last year after learning about escape room adventures when she was working in corporate finance and was involved in team-building activities with her co-workers.
She loved the concept so much she left her job to focus on it.
She even worked with a European “escape consultant” who helped her develop the clues and themes for each of the four rooms — a Hangover room, a Spirit of Harlem, the Abandoned Asylum and the Military Mission room.
The business quickly became popular in the community.
Most of the intricately decorated “escape rooms,” where participants have to solve puzzles, find hidden doors and clues and unlock combinations in order to get out, were also smashed by firefighters.
“We’re just ready to roll up our sleeves and get the business back up and running,” she said.
Officials have yet to determine the cause of the fire, she said.