In 2019, David Dent was introduced to escape rooms through a team-building outing at his job. He enjoyed the experience so much that he took his wife, Cara. Now, the couple visits an escape room everywhere they travel.
The couple’s love of perplexing puzzles has culminated in the opening of their very own escape room business, PanIQ Room Long Beach.
“It’s interactive entertainment,” Dent said of why he is so fond of escape rooms. “You’re immersed in the environment and you get to interact with it. It engages your mind and your visual stimulation.”
Located at 327 Pine Ave., PanIQ had a soft opening in October with three of its four escape rooms open, Dent said. The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony today at 3 p.m. marks the opening of its fourth room.
Prices for the city’s latest attraction start at $38 per person for the 45-minute room (The Haunted Manor) and $43 for the 60-minute rooms (Insane Asylum, Wizard Trials and Pirates of Tortuga). Groups can range in size from two to seven people, Dent said.
The couple has lived in Long Beach for seven years and in 2022 decided it was time to start their own business. But they were unsure of what.
“We were looking at different franchise restaurants, but they have too much turnover and everything else,” Dent said, adding that he runs daily in the city, including through Downtown. “I found myself thinking, ‘What’s missing?’ There are restaurants and bars.’”
Dent quickly realized there was an entertainment-sized hole in Downtown. The lack of entertainment coupled with his architectural and construction background made opening an escape room in the area a no-brainer.
PanIQ, which was established in 2014 and began franchising its brand in 2017, has 24 locations across the U.S., Asia and Europe. The Dents reached out in early 2022 to inquire about opening their own location.
The couple initially was looking closer to the Pike Outlets for a space but high rents pushed them up the street, Dent said. By June 2022, the Dents had found their Downtown location while eating at Hamburger Mary’s and talks with PanIQ proceeded.
In January of last year, after some delays, they got their permits and the build-out began.
“The franchise people flew the puzzles out and I designed how the rooms are laid out, the themes and the decor,” Dent said. “As an architect, you’re so structured, but when it comes to escape rooms, the creativity you’re allowed to apply to the rooms — it’s super fun.
“That’s the most exciting part,” Dent continued, saying he still stands in the various rooms thinking about how to make them even more realistic. “It’s a constant design high.”
Over the last three months, Dent said business has been good. About 60% of their clients have been walk-ins just looking for something to do in Downtown, he noted.
The Dents aren’t stopping with Downtown. The couple has a long-term plan to open four more locations, Dent said, one every two years starting with Belmont Shore and moving south into Orange and San Diego counties.
“We enjoy being a part of the business community,” Dent said. “Being a resource for people on the entertainment side of things, and also from a growth and neighborhood stability component.”