California Announces Another Shut Down - Is it time to throw in the towel?

Mon, July 13, 2020

California announced today another complete business shutdown including family fun centers therefore this would include haunted houses. 
With today's announcement and uncertainty if I owned a haunted house in California yes its time to throw in the towel.  Any effort made at this point
to market your business, hire staff, complete any upgrades is just pouring money down the drain.  Yes its possible this new shutdown could end in  2 to 4 weeks  allowing 
you enough time to still open, but look at the overall picture here.  Another shut down also creates fear across California, financial devastation, and without having 
110% certainty you will be allowed to open, it really is time to cut your losses.   Can you imagine getting to open and then having the rug pulled from under you two weeks into the season?  States that close their economy for a second time could shut them down a third time.  You can't take that risk.  

California haunts it really is time to look in the mirror and call this thing over.  

In California major events have already been cancelled such as the Queen Mary, how far behind is Universal, Knotts, Six Flags?  Let me predict that for you within days you'll see 
every theme park which produces a Halloween event in California announce: CANCELLED.     The problem is so goes California so goes other strong liberal states or even liberal cities because no liberal wants to be outdone.  I would expect Illinois, New York, and many others to follow right behind them and even some heavy liberal cities to jannounce closings.  This is a nightmare! 

President Donald Trump has already stated there will not be another national shut down, so in states where you have republican governors you might be in good shape but inside liberal cities you might not.  Shutting down business again in California is going to cripple its economy.  Shutting down any city or state again is doomsday and I believe will cause more devastation than the virus itself.   At this point the only hope left is if your haunted house is indoors and already set up.  If you're haunt has the ability to walk in and flip a switch you can take the wait and see approach.  However an event like Knotts Scary Farm would start setting up for Halloween about right now so consider this the nail in the coffin. 

The cost of putting up your haunted house, and taking it back down is way too risky, which is why Queen Mary announced their cancellation.  Cancelling your season is not a bad idea from the stand point it allows you to lay off everyone and cancel all spending.  On the other hand it might be devastating to you personally so running the risk of opening is just the risk you have to take.  I get it!  Haunt vendors today have to be simply crying because if haunts don't open, there won't be a Transworld in 2021 because haunts won't have money to spend.  Let me be the first to announce, if my haunts don't open, or if they open and we do less than 50% attendance I will not buy so much as a disk of black eye make up.   Or to put in other words I will not buy masks, animations, props or anything else for that matter.  What choice would I have?  NONE!   I would be left with no choice but layoff our entire staff and wait around for months then at the final hour try to find a crew to help me re-open.  Yeah this is a seriously devastating announcement today which could ripple across the entire industry. 

Vendors my suggestion is to diversify start making props for other industries.  If you can make monsters you can make props for mini golf, laser tags, or themed attractions.  Vendors this should be a wake up call to you its time to start thinking about other industries rather than just haunted houses.  Now is the time to start focusing on making escape rooms props, creating products for social bars, to family entertain centers.   You can't sit around  and wait for good news from the haunted house industry.    Leaders take action and right now be a leader take action and look around at other opportunities.  You're all very talented people there is no need to focus on haunted houses, you need to focus on making money.  I would rebrand your business, create a new website and start making future props based on new markets.  This doesn't mean don't sell to haunts it just means don't put all your eggs into one basket. 

Right now as a haunt owner I have to be thinking shorten the season again, don't open until October now.  

My overall plan to opening is really simple cut everything, staff, marketing, evertything.  If your haunt needs 80 actors you better be figuring out how to eliminate stuff to shorten that number to 40. With the Darkness I did the math if I eliminate just 15 actor positions with my current schedule I could save $20,000.   Additionally I would strongly consider slashing operating days down to the essential nights and dump the rest.  Labor is one of your biggest costs, and if the appitight for visiting a haunt is down drastically then give your customers less options.  In other words the people who want to come will still come so limit the days to save on labor.    Limit your exposure and limit your risk.  Lastly haunted house owners START LISTENING HERE... operating haunted houses is not your end all be all  future.  Take your talent and your team in new directions  today there are a lot of options!  Now is the time to plan a breakout into axe throwing, escape rooms, social bars, mini golf, whatever just something more stable and open year around.   

Haunted Houses got way too fat, spending is out of control, operation costs have skyrocketed, now is the time to reel it all in.  If your haunted house is 30,000 square feet make plans on squeezing that down to 20,000 square feet and use the other 10,000 on some sort of year around attraction. 

What am I doing right now?  Expanding our escape rooms and building a year around mini golf.  You can no longer offer your guests haunts which rely on 100 plus actors not possible and not sustainable long term.  Let me throw another wrech into the system here, if Donald Trump loses his re-elections liberals are promising to raise miniumum wage to $15.00 an hour.  Who can afford to pay 100 to 150 actors $15.00 an hour?  I'm voting for Donald Trump rest assured and so should every small business owner.  With that being said what will happen if the government raises wages to $15 per hour?  Really simple business will figure out ways to do the same with less people.  Every study has shown raising wages to $15 actually costs workers money and jobs.  Every single fast food establishment will automate everything, Walmart is already eliminating cashiers, retail is moving online, etc.  I'm not trying to get political I'm merely pointing out the future is stairing you RIGHT IN THE FACE!   You can't have 150 actors this year or any year whereby you pay your staff $15.00 an hour without asking our customers to pay 25% more for a ticket.  If wages jump to $15 an hour you'll have  NO CHOICE but to figure out how to turn back the clock to 1999 when we had 35 actors.   If we're going to save the haunted house industry we have to start TODAY.  Figure out how you can shorten your experience, operate with 35% less staff, and lower marketing costs.  It's really that simple.  Preparing your haunt to open this season is risky and many of us have to take that risk but do it smart!  

GET MEAN BUT LEAN!  You have no other options. 

There is still hope because we have over two months to go... but action is required drastic measures must be taken.  


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