THE owners of a "much-loved" Dublin play centre say they are devastated after they were forced to close their business just over five years after starting out.
Malahide Play Centre said that a range of factors led to the decision, including the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, ongoing personal injury claims and the fact its insurer refused to pay out for business interruption during the current crisis.
Parents and customers commented in their droves on social media about the closure.
One said: "My three-year-old was never a great fan of play centres but he adored yours and would be racing to get in every time. We will really miss it".
More than 15 locals - including college students and mothers looking to return to part-time work - were employed at the centre.
Owner Kate Fitzmaurice said the decision was made with a "heavy heart", but she felt the business was no longer viable in the current climate.
"Up until last year, our insurance had doubled every year," she told the Herald.
"This year we got a good surprise in that it was the first year we saw our premium come down. We thought this was a good sign, but then Covid came.
"In terms of reopening, we looked at the restrictions and guidelines and our big focus was creating experiences for families and children that were safe, that we felt were of the best standard, but when we factored in everything we just didn't think it was sustainable.
"On our Facebook page, there's over 200 comments with disappointed customers and parents, and what really hit us hard is we know we're letting a lot of children down. Our business was great when it came to caring for children with special needs and we had parents say it was the one place their kids found they were comfortable."
Ms Fitzmaurice said it was incredibly frustrating when the insurer refused to pay out on a business interruption claim.
"How a pandemic can't be defined as legitimate business interruption, I will ever know," she said.
There are a number of injury claims pending against the play centre which also affected its insurance.
"I don't want to dishearten anyone, everyone's decision is their own, there are lots of play centres that have reopened and I wish them the best of luck," she added.
"For us, it hasn't just been about Covid, but ultimately it did force us into the position of realising we are no longer viable."