Just two weeks ahead of opening day, an early morning fire recently damaged a new family attraction coming to downtown Belleville.
After more than a year of planning and remodeling the building at 102 E. Main St., owner Tyler Renner tearfully spoke about the setback Monday as crews continued to clean up the damage from the fire that broke out Nov. 24.
“Imagine being able to get an opportunity to actually do what you really love,” Renner said Monday.
He still plans to open Escape 618 soon, but after the fire it’s hard to know when customers will be able to enter.
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“We have a full construction crew,” Renner said. “We’ll knock this thing out.”
Firefighters responded to Escape 618 after a fire broke out around 4 a.m. Nov. 24. The fire was quickly contained and no one was injured, Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour said.
The cause of the fire is listed as spontaneous combustion from oily rags. In recent years, Belleville firefighters have responded to three commercial business fires and five house fires caused by the improper disposal of oily rags, Pour said.
Renner said he plans move forward with plans to open as soon as the damage is cleaned up.
His great-grandfather, Theodore Bauer, built the imposing Grant Building on East Main Street in downtown Belleville and now Renner will bring new life into the building as Escape 618.
Customers, including kids and their families, corporate groups, class field trips or couples on a date, pay to enter a themed room and then use team building skills to figure their way out within a time limit. Renner notes that customers are not “locked” in the room, they can leave at any time if they want and a “game master” will accompany and monitor the players.
Several escape room businesses are already in operation in the St. Louis metro area.
Renner hopes to have nine themed rooms in the building.
The initial phase will feature four escape rooms on the first floor. Five other escape rooms will be opened later in the basement and apartments could be built on a top floor after the escape rooms are finished. Also, the themes would be changed on a regular basis.
“With an escape room, you can benefit the community,” Renner said in a September 2017 interview. “You can bring people together. I can take kids, throw them in a room, get them off their phones and I can make them work together.”
For more information, call 618-581-5793.
BND staff reporter Mike Koziatek contributed to this report.