Dallas ‘Escape Rooms’ Struggle to Re-Open

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DALLAS -- Andrew McJannett-Smith and his wife run a company in Dallas called Escape Expert. Their customers enter one of six rooms and have an hour to unlock the door by solving a series of puzzles.

"We have a whole load of different ones to test different parts of the brain," McJannett-Smith told NewsFix. "Basically, 'Escape Rooms' are a mental workout."

Right now, though, this business owner has a puzzle of his own to solve -- just to open Escape Expert's front door.

The first weekend in December, McJannett-Smith was told his Certificate of Occupancy from the city was incorrect. And after operating for 11 months, classified as an "office showroom/warehouse." Escape Expert, along with Deep Ellum's "A Room With a Clue," has been shut down by the fire department. They can only re-open once they have the right classification from the city.

The question is -- what is the right category for an escape room?

Well, according to the folks at City Hall, it's "commercial amusement inside" like Dave and Busters. The problem for these escape rooms is that that classification would require a lot more parking.  The additional parking isn't available at their current locations, and McJannett-Smith says it isn't needed for the type of business they do.

"We've operated for the last 11 months with no parking problems at all," he said. "When you get a gray area like that, you should just make a new classification."

The standoff has been going on for over two weeks, and it could force these businesses to relocate if the two sides can't find a way to solve this puzzle together.