Escape room breaks out of planning commission


The Great Escape in Clovis will open location in Visalia later this year

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – There’s no escaping that Visalia soon will have its own escape room. 

At its April 23 meeting, the Visalia Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for an escape room company to operate in the office building located at 3300 S. Fairway St. behind the Milan Institute of Cosmetology and Tokyo Gardens. 

The Great Escape is owned by Jana Wilkerson, 42, who opened her first escape room in Clovis a year and a half ago and a second location in Maui just nine months ago called “Escape Kihei,” a city in Maui. She has been a full-time teacher for 20 years when she opened the Clovis location, just seven months stepping into her first escape room, where groups of two to eight people work together to solve clues to unlock the door to the room. 

Wilkerson said they will offer at least two of three themes including the Zombie Lab, Mafia Bomb Squad and The Heist. 

The only person to speak at the meeting was Alice Terry, a resident living directly behind the office building. While she wasn’t opposed to the business, she did want the commissioners to be aware of ongoing problems in the area. She said she and her neighbor constantly find broken beer bottles in their backyard, drunken people jump over their fence and people smoking marijuana at the edge of their yard. 

“There’s been nothing but problems in the area,” she said. 

She asked if the commission could require the business to build a higher block wall that separates the parking lot and the homes. City Planner Paul Bernal said the commission could not require the business to build a larger wall because the decision would have to have a consensus among the five property owners that share it. 

Terry said she was also concerned that having a business in the building may actually make the problem worse. She said the entrance to the building is a large breezeway where people tend to congregate and loiter. 

Wilkerson said loitering will not be a problem because the business puts an emphasis and making customers leave before the next group of customers arrive, not only to avoid people hanging out past dark but also to ensure clues and secrets to solving the puzzles are not given away. 

“We don’t want customers who are leaving discussing clues when others are arriving,” she said. “That would ruin our business.”

Bernal said part of the problem with the area is that the office building is mostly vacant with the exception of a doctor’s office. He said having the escape room business operating from 5-10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday would help cut down on other issues.

“The minute you reoccupy [the building] the problems tend to go away,” he said. 

Chairman Brett Taylor agreed as the Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve the conditional use permit.

For more information, call The Great Escape at 559-722-7793.

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