Closure campaign ‘has hit business’

Sipra Deb at The Play Arena
Sipra Deb at The Play Arena
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The boss of a Sheffield soft play centre hit by a closure campaign says business has been “significantly” affected and redundancies can’t be ruled out.

Sipra Deb, founder of The Play Arena said comments on Facebook and Trip Advisor, and an online petition, had resulted in people staying away.

Trouble started after a child ran into a table in the cafe and suffered a cut eyebrow. He was reunited with his party and given first aid. But after the group left a ‘barrage of negative comments’ were posted on social media.

The venue, on Little London Road, employs 30.

Sipra said: “It’s had a significant effect on business. I’m trying not to make redundancies, but something will have to happen. It’s the last thing I want, but if it carries on…

“The team has been really down about it, I have been really down about it. A lot of people of people have been calling, saying, ‘hang on in there’. But it was so personal.

“At the end of the day it is an independent business that provides local jobs.”

After the incident last month, Ms Deb called Sheffield City Council and an environmental health officer reviewed the set-up. He concluded it was up to parents to control children in the cafe.

A report also states the venue exceeds first aid legal requirements and has a five-star food hygiene rating.

Sipra added: “People who have a nice time don’t talk about it. We have 100,000 children through the door every year and it wouldn’t occur to parents to comment.

“We’ve been on the end of a social media witch hunt. It does seem to be an increasing trend.

“Allegations have been bandied about and people don’t want to take risks where children are concerned.

“Of course we are upset a child has been hurt. All this has reminded me customers are at the heart of what we do and we resolve to do everything better.“

The majority of comments posted online support the venue.

Rebbecca Goldie wrote:’OMG get a grip, kids have accidents all the time’.