A businessman has opened a new escape room attraction in Swindon, months after a former employee was awarded £1,000 at a tribunal.

John Tanner has opened a new escape room business – Escape Room HQ – in Hobley Drive on February 1, promising it will be part of a larger company, Riddles Retreat, bringing axe throwing, interactive darts, mini golf and more across the UK, with sites already planned across Wiltshire.

But it comes less than a year after an employment tribunal upheld a claim from a former employee of £1,322.51, after a judge deemed he made unauthorised deductions from her wages and had failed to pay her holiday entitlement.

Sky-Anne Haley, who brought the claim against Tanner Leisure Ltd, the former company of John and Emma Tanner, previously worked at axe-throwing venue Enigma Rooms in Chippenham.

The venue, which opened in November 2022, is now closed, after a takeover by new owners fell through.

Speaking previously, Sky-Anne said: “I’m happy that I won my claim, at the time I couldn’t pay my rent and was close to being evicted.

“I went into a deep depression and my anxiety spiked, it put a lot of stress on me.”

Speaking to the Adver, Mr Tanner denied not paying Sky-Anne and said that notification of the tribunal was sent to the wrong address.

Swindon Advertiser: Sky-Anne HaleySky-Anne Haley (Image: Sky-Anne Haley)

He added that after finding out about the tribunal, he instructed a solicitor, and the decision was dismissed.

But there is no evidence of the decision being dismissed on the employment tribunal decisions website.

Meanwhile, in February 2023, four employees of another of Mr Tanner’s businesses - Paranormal Electronics - were awarded a total of over £4,000 for unpaid wages at another employment tribunal. 

Mr Tanner says he sold Paranormal Electronics to a new owner in 2022 who was supposed to ensure staff got paid. 

A month after the employment tribunal, Mr Tanner filed a retrospective cessation of being a person with significant control and a termination of his directorship dating back to April 2022. 

The Swindon branch of Escape Room HQ will serve as the headquarters for the wider business.

At the time of opening, locals will be able to enjoy one escape room experience based on zombies and another will be added next month with more to follow. 

"Swindon being where we live looked like a good spot," he said. 

The business has provided four jobs in the local area, as well as a number of people for the admin side of Riddles Retreat.  

Mr Tanner added: "We've had great feedback, we have got several bookings in the schedule which is great, most people already know what an escape room is so half of our job is already done.

"We hope that people will come and embrace our rooms."