Kid-themed indoor venues face financial hit with coronavirus closures

Dave & Busters, Chuck E Cheese, mini golf and other kids-focused businesses grapple with operating under new COVID-19 normal

It's the summer of no fun.

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Arcades, mini-golf, playgrounds and amusement parks that cater to the pint-sized crowd are navigating how to safely reopen during the coronavirus, while others in some states wait for the go-ahead to resume business.

That's the case at New York City-based Pier 25 Mini Golf and its beach volleyball courts, run by Manhattan Youth non-profit community center, which typically opens for business on April 15, but has since remained closed.

Skippy Land is the Arcade game Zone. (iStock)

"We're waiting to open. A kid came up to the gate and started crying, he said he wanted to play mini-golf," Bob Townley, founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth, told FOX Business.

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While golf courses have reopened in all 50 states, mini-golf courses like those run by Manhattan Youth have yet to get the greenlight. Its mini-golf and beach volleyball businesses turn out around $600,000 in revenue between April and Oct., the proceeds of which go to Manhattan Youth's scholarship program for summer camps and after school programming, Townley said.

And with school almost out for the summer, many parents rely on those types of businesses to keep their little ones occupied, and for childcare at facilities that offer day camp options.

Other public amusement parks like arcades, children's play centers and theme parks are still unable to reopen in some parts of the country that have not yet entered Phase 2, and even when they do owners have had to rethink their business.

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It could take months for Billings, Montana-based Get Air Trampoline Park to bounce back from its COVID-19-related revenue losses. The indoor playground reopened May 20 after being closed since March 20 with new rules that allow 50 customers at a time instead of its typical capacity of 211 it had before the coronavirus crisis. The business estimates its losses nearly $700,000 in revenue from being closed and is taking heighten sanitation measures to clean off communal areas like its foam pit, Billings-based news channel KLUR8 reported.

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Larger scale kids entertainment companies are also feeling the heat from revenue losses. Restaurant and gaming chain Dave & Buster's stock tumbled in March and early April as a result of forced closures. Job postings from the Dallas-based chain went from more than 2,000 in March to under 30, software company Thinknum reported.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
PLAYDAVE & BUSTER'S ENTERTAINMENT INC26.69+0.18+0.68%

Family arcade and restaurant chain Chuck E Cheese is reportedly in talks to raise money to avoid filing for bankruptcy. Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Chuck E Cheese owner CEC Entertainment is in almost $1 billion in debt and is asking lenders for a $200 loan to keep the business running.

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The food and games chain, like others, was forced to close during the coronavirus and birthday parties that were booked during mid-March and April were to be refunded, the company said. And while some have started to reopen, capacity caps and sanitation concerns over the shared gaming equipment that could potentially be a host for the virus will be a challenge.

The CEC Entertainment-owned chain said it would start implementing temperature checks for employees and guests and is requiring all to wear face coverings during Phase 1 of its reopenings. Games and tables during birthday parties will also be spaced out to adhere to social distancing measures.

"As we begin to re-open our restaurants and arcade rooms across the country, in accordance with all CDC, federal, state and local guidelines, we remain committed to making every guest and cast member experience as safe as possible,"  a CEC Entertainment spokesperson told FOX Business in an email.

Disneyland in California, meanwhile, is slated to reopen on July 17, the company announced Wednesday after Orlando's Walt Disney World announced phrased reopening plans slated for next month with "enhanced health and safety measures" including required masks for employees and guests, temperature checks and social distancing in addition to new sanitizing and handwashing stations.

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