'We did what we had to do' - boss of Medieval Mayhem softplay describes desperate measures to survive pandemic
A Sheffield play centre boss has explained how the business survived the pandemic which shut 300 across the country.
Medieval Mayhem Softplay Ltd in Neepsend was put into liquidation when it was unable to pay bills after being closed for more than a year.
Owners Scott and Karen Melville then bought the right to keep the name and formed a new company to continue operating the business.
The move saved the popular facility at Toledo Works, Neepsend Lane, and 12 jobs. But it left total debts of £175,700.
Mr Melville said they had hired 18 since then and the venue had proved a godsend to parents during the summer holidays when the weather had frequently been bad.
It comes after another soft play centre, The Play Arena on Little London Road, closed permanently soon after restrictions were lifted on Freedom Day in July. Boss Sipra Deb blamed ‘the impossible situation presented by the pandemic as well as the lack of support for the sector and the huge running costs’.
Nationally, some 300 soft play centres are believed to have shut down due to the pandemic.
Mr Melville said: “We have done what we had to do to get through to today and keep everyone in work and keep the centre open.”
The liquidation was handled by Graywoods of Fountain Precinct, Leopold Street.
There were total debts of £175,700, of which £3,700 was owed to HMRC, £100,000 to the bank, £1,000 to other creditors and £71,000 to associated companies.
Mr Melville said they set up the business in 2019 after visiting other centres with their children and believing they could do it better in terms of facilities, food and cleanliness.
He added: “We took an old storage warehouse and turned it into what it is today. There was nothing of that sort of size in the area.”
He is no longer a director of the new company, but continues in his other job as a care home manager.
“From having your own business that could be at risk and your own house, and three young children and a care home manager job during a pandemic - it’s been quite involved.”