.‘GT’ Tries to Escape from Exit Santa Cruz

“We really are in a horror movie, huh?” asks GT freelancer Mat Weir, as he thumbs hopelessly through a textbook, looking for clues.

“Nah,” says GT editor Steve Palopoli, while he plays with a combination lock that he can’t figure out. “The movies are never … this … slow.”

Our editorial team is trapped in a room on Pacific Avenue, trying to get out, before a totally real-sounding guy named Professor Psyko murders each of us—all part of this spooky, puzzle-filled experience at Exit Santa Cruz, a local business that’s part of a growing escape room trend, for geeky thrill seekers everywhere.

Web editor Lily Stoicheff and features editor Anne-Marie Harrison did the funky chicken dance because they were the smartest ones in the room. Steve, frustrated with having to figure out questions on his own, complained “We’re journalists! Normally we just call people and ask for the answers.”

This room is filled with clues, puzzles, locks and keys. There’s also a giant digital clock ticking down until the moment our teacher will kill us if we don’t figure things out—as well as a laptop computer, where we can ask for clues and communicate with Steven Cleek, who co-owns Exit Santa Cruz with longtime partner Christy Byrd, an assistant psych professor at UCSC who once taught a class on The Hunger Games.

secure document shredding

Amazingly, their operation may only be the second-nerdiest new business on the block. Pacific Gaming Café just opened across the street, with games like Diablo III and League of Legends, as well as plenty of room for tournaments. The owner Winston Yu, a 19-year-old UCSC sophomore, has already chatted with Cleek about maybe working together at some point. “In Santa Cruz, there was nothing like this before, and we’re trying to create a culture of gamers to play and get to know each other,” Yu says, of the café. “A destination.”

Exit Santa Cruz is at 816 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information visit exitsantacruz.com or call 316-4874. Pacific Avenue Gaming Café is at 803 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 415-910-0592 for more information.



There was a time, only six years ago, when Californians started wondering how AB 109—known as the “realignment” initiative—would affect safety in our neighborhoods. Since then, voters passed Propositions 47, 57 and 64 on top of it.

“There’s just a lot of criminal justice reforms that are really impacting the community,” says United Way’s community organizing director with Sarah Emmert, who’s pulling together a forum on the topic with County Supervisor John Leopold. “We really felt like it was time.”

Speakers for the May 31 summit at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium include Mayor Cynthia Chase, UCSC psych professor Craig Haney, Chief Probation Officer Fernando Giraldo, sociology professor Craig Reinerman, Nicole Keadle from the Community Corrections Partnership and Sheriff Jim Hart—who’s been crunching crime stats that he hopes to share that evening.

“Crime is a complex issue,” Emmert says, “and there are a lot of different factors that impact it.”

The free Forum on Criminal Justice Reform and Our Community will be 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, May 31 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.


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