Escape room lures thrill seekers to Apollo Beach

Published on: August 10, 2017

Escape Strategy manager Lexie Loar, 24, holds a fistful of DEA badges used as props during one of the business’s two escape room experiences.


The newly opened Escape Strategy in Apollo Beach is offering South Shore residents an exciting new way to have fun with their family, friends and co-workers.

“Currently, escape rooms are all the rave,” said Lexie Loar, 24, Escape Strategy manager. “Being locked in a room and having to find your way out is an entirely different kind of adrenaline rush.”

Escape Strategy participants are trapped inside a themed room and must interactively use clues and solve puzzles to meet an objective and find their way out within a set amount of time.

“It’s like a real-life adventure game,” said gamemaster Steph Crowell, 21. “Escape rooms are popular with gamers, and this gives them the opportunity to actually have the experience.”

Actually, they’re fun for everyone, Loar said.

“We opened June 1 and have had people of all ages come in, from kids as young as 4 (with their parents) to seniors from Sun City Center.

Originally started in Japan, escape rooms are now located throughout the world. Their variety of themes can include prison cells, Egyptian tombs, dungeons, zombie rooms and space stations.

Many who enjoy them travel from city to city to try them.

The Escape Strategy has two escape rooms: the Beach Room, a 30-minute experience for beginners and children and the DEA Room, a more complex challenge lasting up to 60 minutes. Every six to nine months, the themes will change, Loar said.

Escape rooms are great for team building and group celebrations.

Members of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce staff ham it up for a group photo after recently finding their way out of the DEA Room in a team-building exercise at the Escape Strategy in Apollo Beach.

Tanya Doran, executive director of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, recently took her staff and reported it a worthwhile experience.

“We had such a good time. It was entertaining, and we had a variety of different challenges we had to overcome together,” she said, adding her staff members got out with seven minutes to spare. “We worked together and were very proud of the accomplishment.

“It was a great team-building experience,” Doran continued. “And it was a fun way to spend time together outside the office.”

The Escape Strategy is owned and operated by 21-year-old Gillian Garbus, who formerly lived in Apollo Beach and recently moved to Lakeland where she attends Florida Polytechnic University.

“I went to high school in Apollo Beach and started going to escape rooms in college,” she said, noting she felt the Apollo Beach area could benefit from one. “I’ve experienced 40 different escape rooms (throughout Florida), including one in San Francisco and enjoyed them all.”

Her parents, Jeffrey and Penny Garbus, of Apollo Beach, invested in the business to get her started. After slightly more than two months, she already has expansion plans.

“We’re going to be opening a Ghost Room soon, which will be more challenging and even scary.”

Loar noted it will be larger and more tech savvy.

“It’s going to be awesome. I can’t wait,” she said.

The Escape Room is at 1312-B Apollo Beach Blvd., next door to Alpha Pizza. It’s open Monday through Wednesday by appointment, Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

For more information, pricing and reservations, email, visit,, or call 813-773-7150.