Interactive escape room opens in Evanston

Robin Opsahl, Assistant City Editor

Evanston residents can find a new form of escape in the heart of downtown with the opening of the city’s first space that brings video games to real life.

Evanston’s new escape room, Lock Chicago, located above World of Beer at 1601 Sherman Ave., opened on Monday. Escape rooms, which are influenced by the immersive feeling video games give to players, are real-life adventure games in which participants have to solve puzzles and find clues within a space to try to escape on a time limit.

Lock Chicago currently features one escape room, Sunburn, and plans to open a second, Cave-In, in the near future, co-owner Bane Srdjevic said.

Srdjevic said Lock Chicago is a “challenge room,” which provides alternative end-goals and challenges for each space and keeps participants engaged.

“It takes the adrenaline of sports and puts it to use for mental faculties,” Srdjevic said. “It’s cerebral gymnastics.”

Srdjevic said he and his partner, Brian Lee, became interested in escape rooms last summer when a friend started one in Kansas. After trying the escape room themselves, Srdjevic said they decided to try creating one in Evanston.

Srdjevic said college students and residents are always looking for things to do in Evanston. He said he felt this would give people a fun activity close to home which is ideal especially in the winter. To help attract college students, Lock is offering 20 percent discounts to Northwestern students by adding the code “Wildcats” when ordering tickets online.

“It’ll be something the community really likes and [it will] give people something to do in Evanston at night, without having to go to Chicago,” he said. “And this is something that you don’t need to plan far in advance — not a whole lot of effort.”

Customers can make reservations a minimum of 12 hours in advance and can choose to join a public room or book the room for a private party on the page’s website. This would allow participants to try to solve the puzzles with their friends or to go in and work with strangers.

Lock Chicago’s Sunburn follows the story of treasure hunters and has an overarching theme of light — which manifests itself in different forms throughout the challenge — and reflection-based puzzles. Srdjevic said the room is made so that people will be able to easily collaborate and engage with the theme.

“The escape room is custom-built,” Srdjevic said. “When you do something like an escape room, we want the chance to work with elements outside of everyday life. It’s a lot more exciting.”

Escape rooms have gained popularity in the U.S. recently, with five relatively-new locations opening in Chicago.

Paul Zalmezak, an economic development official, said downtown Evanston is a great fit for Lock Chicago because of the surrounding businesses and Evanston’s “brainy” residents.

“Evanston has a significant office population, and businesses will definitely use this for team-building,” Zalmezak said. “But it also fits a trend of trying to make downtown a place for activities.”

Sdrjevic added this distinctive experience will be appreciated in Evanston.

“It’s a unique experience and something you really get a rush out of,” Srdjevic said. “People are always looking for new things to do, and this is something that will be fun and challenging.”

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Twitter: @robinlopsahl