A TOTAL of 24 people have lost their jobs following the closure of one of Inverclyde's most popular businesses.

The plug was pulled on Funworld and sister unit Laser Matrix when bosses Tom and Chris Glancey of the G1 Fun Limited group announced it would not reopen after the lockdown.

The brothers' decision to call time on the complex - which has been at the heart of the Inverclyde community for 15 years - came as a bombshell to their employees and a big shock to families locally and further afield who have spent many happy days there.

Over the years thousands have flocked to the soft play centre and laser tag arena within the Fort Matilda Industrial Estate, with some customers who went there as kids now bringing along their own families.

Chris, 31, and his younger brother Tom took over the business from local entrepreneur Sharon Murdoch in 2017 and say they were doing well until Covid-19 forced them to call a halt in March.

They have now decided it will not reopen.

Chris told the Tele: "We are truly gutted we've had to close the doors of both Funworld and Laser Matrix.

"We just couldn't see how it would be possible to open as this virus has brought every area of our business to its knees.

"A big part of our business is the school holidays, they keep us going but we've missed both the Easter break and the full summer.

"We couldn't socially distance adults, wouldn't be able to host kids' parties and wouldn't be able to operate at full capacity.

"Our business was able to open in phase three, but we wanted to put the health and safety of both staff, customers and their children first.

"All it would take was one person to come in with coronavirus and then that could be over 200 people infected."

The owners say the difficult decision has been taken with one month before the furlough scheme unwinds, in the hope that staff can plan for the future.

Of the 24 staff, many of the younger employees were students working part-time and weekend shifts but others depended on the business as their main source of income.

So far, two people - the chef and cafe manager - have secured new jobs, but Chris says he is hopeful that someone could step in and reopen the much loved facility.

He said: "It was so difficult explaining the circumstances to staff.

"However everyone was extremely understanding, as are our customers.

"It is a community staple and we've had hundreds of thousands of children through the doors over the years, with some of them even going on to bring their own children to both Funworld and Laser Matrix.

"We would love for someone to step in and save the business as it is a terrible loss to the area.

"So many people are devastated, however we know that someone would be more or less starting from scratch.

"This has been the main softplay area in Inverclyde for years, so we are pursuing options and would love to speak to anyone who is interested."

The business was the Glasgow brothers' main source of income and they have been furloughed since March.

The entrepreneurs say they are making plans to open an ice-cream shop in Glasgow as they adapt to life without their flagship Inverclyde business.

Chris added: "While we are very sad at this difficult decision we are deeply conscious of the health and wellbeing of our young customers, their families and our colleagues.

"We’d like to thank the wonderful staff who’ve worked here.

"We're all very grateful to everyone who has played a part in Funworld’s success over the years."