Virtual reality bar’s Halloween event giving COVID-safe scares in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — How do you go to a haunted house without having to go to a haunted house? Enter the world of virtual reality.

HallowNights at DoubleTap KC is providing real life scares this Halloween. Thrill seekers don’t have to get physically close to the monsters. However, the experience is practically the same.

“You put the headset on, right, and you’re fully submersed in that world. You almost kind of lose track of where you are, you forget that you’re grounded here in Kansas City,” owner Terry Keith told FOX4.

DoubleTap is a virtual reality bar in the River Market. Customers can rent out lanes, which are areas sectioned off by heavy curtains, and experience different worlds with their friends through headsets and hand controllers.

“We wanted to make it to where, large groups, small groups, you could really come together and really have a good time and share in that VR experience,” Keith said.

He said people are often intimidated by virtual reality games. However, he said skeptics shouldn’t worry — the digital experience is surprisingly intuitive.

“Your body movements do all the work,” he said. “When you turn your head in the game, it turns with you. When you use your arms, it moves with you.”

HallowNights, which takes place Friday-Sunday through Halloween, celebrates spooky season by launching gamers on a scavenger hunt through different games, including a haunted house and a zombie apocalypse. Both players and non-players are able to participate.

“We can give customers that opportunity to go to a haunted house or get that thrill or that fear factor that you’re looking for without having to expose yourself to that additional risk, especially during COVID,” Keith said. “I can’t give it all away, that will ruin the experience, but you’re going to scream, trust me.”

The space is decked out in Halloween decorations, and fog machine rolls smoke throughout the space. Themed cocktails, like The Witches Brew and The Vampire Bite, provide the finishing touch.

COVD-19 precautions

A native of Kansas City, Keith said he first played virtual reality only two years ago. He instantly had the idea for DoubleTap, and after two years of planning, the business was born. It opened June 15, 2020, right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, the layout of the space is surprisingly COVID-safe. High ceilings provide ample air circulation. Groups who arrive together remain in their lanes while they play, bringing drinks from the bar to their private area.

As for the equipment, Keith said his team sanitizes the headsets and controllers twice every hour. Additional sanitizing solution and hand sanitizer are available in the lanes. Workers are also strict about wearing masks, and people aren’t allowed to hang out at the bar.

“If you’re entrusting us to come out, we’re going to do everything we can to kind of mitigate the spread of COVID,” he said.

Keith said he has had people close to him contract COVID-19, one of whom he mentioned was high risk and dealt with serious symptoms for more than three months.

“It’s a real thing, and we understand that. That’s why our policies are so strict.”

Visitors can reserve a lane on the DoubleTap KC website.

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