A day after Ottawa’s Laser Quest facility announced it was closing for good in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, its former boss is vowing to get the city back in the game.
Philip Aldis said Wednesday he’s planning to reopen the 10,000-square-foot space at 1800 St. Laurent Blvd. next month under the name LaserMaxx Ottawa.
“I don’t want to see it end,” said Aldis, who began his career with Laser Quest in 2001 as general manager of the Ottawa location and eventually became the chain’s director of operations for North America before getting laid off as part of a major round of cuts in August.
Aldis said after losing his job, he “immediately reached out to the landlord to see how we could carry on the laser tag legacy in Ottawa.”
Laser Quest said Tuesday it was permanently shutting down most of its locations across Canada and the United States, including the one on St. Laurent Boulevard. The facility had been closed since March in an effort to help flatten the curve during the pandemic but never reopened.
Aldis, who’s funding the new venture out of his own pocket, concedes it won’t be easy to make a go of it.
He’s planning to limit the number of players in each game to just 20 – about half the number that took part in a typical round in the pre-COVID era – to make sure physical distancing won’t be an issue. Participants will be asked to stay at least eight feet apart and will be required to wear masks at all times inside the facility, while all equipment and vests will be sanitized after each use.
“We know we’re going to do dramatically less sales,” he says. “I’m putting it all on the line to keep laser tag in Ottawa and keep this staple of our community running.”
Aldis says he’ll try to trim expenses where possible, and he’s upgrading the room’s arcade with new video games that he hopes will entice a few customers to spend a little extra money.
Laser Quest once employed as many as 20 people at the St. Laurent location, and Aldis says he’s hoping to bring as many of those former workers back into the fold as he can afford to.
“People stay at Laser Quest for a long time because the job is so much fun,” he says.
Meanwhile, Aldis is already eyeing future growth opportunities. He’s put his contact information on the LaserMaxx website, with a message urging potential franchisees to give him a call.
Like many a budding entrepreneur, Aldis admits he’s probably not going to be getting a whole lot of sleep for the next while as he gets the operation off the ground.
“I’m going to be here seven days a week, 24 hours a day if necessary to make sure that the business is successful,” he says.