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Vegas and the Virus
From:
Las Vegas Advisor -- Expert Gambling Books Las Vegas Advisor -- Expert Gambling Books
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

 

Update 3/17 — Capacity Limits Raised to 50%

As of Monday, capacity limits in Las Vegas were raised from 35% to 50%. The mandate applies to casinos, restaurants, bars, and other businesses where people congregate, including venues with more than 2,500 seats, such as showrooms and arenas. As a result, about 40 shows have announced their return to the stage and up to 9,000 spectators are now allowed to attend Vegas Golden Knights hockey games at T-Mobile Arena. Palazzo, Planet Hollywood, and the LINQ, all of which have been operating with their hotels completely closed or with partial availability, are now open seven days a week.

The adjustment comes in time to accommodate bigger crowds expected for the NCAA Basketball Championship that begins this weekend. Will the sports books adhere to 50% capacity? It seems unlikely, if only for the fact that it’s difficult to enforce. Capacity limits seemed mostly nonexistent during the Super Bowl.

The first major convention scheduled to return to Las Vegas will be the World of Concrete, with a typical attendance of 60,000, June 7-10. The city has gone nearly a year without a single convention, so this announcement is a welcome one.

Soon there will be two buffets in action, as the Cosmopolitan has announced that the Wicked Spook Buffet will re-reopen on March 25 for breakfast and lunch, Thursday through Sunday. Breakfast (8-11 a.m.) will be $38 for adults, $19 children; lunch (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) will be $45/$22.50. Reservations aren’t mandatory, but will be highly encouraged. Dining will be limited to two hours per party and it sounds like service will be the same as before it closed: Servers dishing out the food to diners on socially distanced lines. The Wicked Spoon reopened on June 26 after the shutdown, then closed on January 10 “temporarily” until “business levels improved.” The loosened capacity restrictions are, apparently, enough of a business improvement for the Cosmo to kickstart its AYCE spread. 

The next move is currently unknown, as no timetable for additional concessions has been divulged. 

Update 3/10 — Exit the ‘Moat’ 

A combination of factors has led to the return of several Las Vegas shows after nearly a year of dormancy. First was the raising of capacity limits that allow up to 100 people in a theater, with another increase expected within the week. More important, though, was last week’s rescinding of the “moat” requirement that mandated a 25-foot distance be kept between entertainers and audience. There was also a relaxing of rules specifying how close stage performers can be to one another — now six feet if masked and 12 feet unmasked. These changes have prompted more shows to declare opening dates and the majority of Las Vegas productions will be operating by the end of this month (the exception being Cirque shows, as referenced in the 3/3 Update).

It’s not just the showroom productions. Also recently announced are the Downtown Rocks free concerts beginning in May and running through the summer; the Electric Daisy Carnival, also in May; the Life is Beautiful festival and the Punk Rock Bowling and Music festival in September, and the Professional Bull Riders Association Premier Series and Championships in November.

Meanwhile, another update from the governor is due within a week, with expectations high for additional easing of restrictions.

Update 3/3 — More Openings

The theme remains the same, with more shows announcing opening dates. Most notable among them is Cirque du Soleil, which is targeting July 4 for its return. The tentative plan calls for the reopening of O at Bellagio on Independence Day weekend, followed by roughly one new show every month, starting with Mystere, then “a still-to-be-determined procession” of Love, Michael Jackson One, and Ka. Blue Man Group, also a Cirque-owned show, could open in July, depending on restrictions.  A recent Golden Knights NHL game at T-Mobile Arena allowed 2,500 spectators and plans are in the works to open Allegiant Stadium to some degree.

An interesting news story indicates that more than 200 U.S. casinos are now permanently smoke-free as a result of the pandemic. That includes all casinos in Atlantic City and many tribal casinos. However, only four Las Vegas properties with gaming licenses were listed — Two Aces and Ales bars, the Sand Dollar Lounge, and Park MGM.

The combination of continued improved COVID numbers in Nevada and the move toward loosening restrictions throughout the country, including the big rollback in Texas, points to the likelihood of the hoped for improved conditions  that could be announced between now and March 15.

Update 2/24 — Opening Up

There’s been plenty of action in just one week since the loosening of COVID restrictions. Along with Virgin setting its opening date, it was announced that Mandalay Bay, Park MGM, and the Mirage will resume full-time operating hours beginning March 3. Several shows are also coming back, though with higher prices to counter the still-crippling capacity limitations.

Other signs of opening up have shown in the announcements of returning conventions (beginning in July) and more shows coming back, including almost all from MGM and Caesars. It’s good to see the shows returning, but it’s not happening under the best of circumstances, as most have raised prices, some substantially, and almost all have two-ticket minimums. Also, up to 16,000 fans will be allowed into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400 NASCAR race March 5-7. That’s the allowed 20% of the Speedway’s capacity. It will be the first time spectators are permitted at the Speedway since October.

In general, tourism-related businesses are running with what the government will give them, hoping for more latitude as soon as they can get it. COVID numbers continue to show improvement, adding to the optimism.

Update 2/15 — Restrictions Loosened

As hoped for and expected, Nevada’s COVID-related restrictions were loosened a bit, with some of the new rules going into effect today as part of a phased approach. The key change is the raising of the capacity limitations at casinos, restaurants, and bars from 25% to 35%. The 35% number seems odd — who will really be able to discern a difference between 25% and 35%? — but it’s a step in the right direction, and the plan calls for 50% capacity to be allowed as of March 15. At restaurants, these numbers apply indoors only; there are no restrictions on outdoor dining. The 35% edict also applies to gyms, churches, bowling alleys, and arcades. Also of consequence, reservations are no longer mandatory to eat at restaurants and the maximum number of guests at one table has been raised from four to six.

The restrictions on gatherings have also been relaxed, with the 35% rule in place there, too, up to a maximum of 100 people in most venues. As of May 1, these numbers will increase to 50% or 250 people. Large venues are allowed up to 20% of “fixed seated capacity.” This hasn’t been clearly defined, but it sounds like a venue such as T-Mobile Arena that seats 20,000 should be able to admit 4,000. Still disallowed from opening are the so called “high-risk activities,” including strip clubs, nightclubs, and brothels.

While businesses would have preferred an immediate move to 50% capacity (or higher), most are encouraged. Immediately following the governor’s announcement, Virgin Las Vegas announced that it would open on March 25. Overall, Nevada’s key infection numbers have been dropping, adding to confidence that the limits will continue to be adjusted as scheduled. Anthony addresses these points in our new YouTube video.

Update 2/10 — Pause Proclamation Pending

News on the state of the “pause” is expected before the weekend and confidence in a more relaxed stance is high, given advances in vaccination distribution and declining COVID-infection numbers in Nevada.

Las Vegas made it through the Super Bowl with a $136.1 million betting handle, which was a reasonably low COVID-induced decline of 12%. On Super Bowl Sunday the city was crowded and it felt a bit like Vegas again, although it was back to the recent mid-week normal by Tuesday morning. For example, not a single customer was gambling at the Golden Gate at 6:30 am, and it wasn’t much better at other casinos, even on the Strip. 

During an investor call, the head of Station Casinos said the still-shuttered Palms won’t reopen until visitation to Las Vegas increases and that no date has been set. Other Station properties in the same position are Texas Station and both Fiestas.

Most hopeful of a lessening of restrictions are the show producers, but even under current conditions, several are making a  go of it. In a call-around for the February Las Vegas Advisor, we found the following shows open: 

While everyone talks about Las Vegas being showless, that’s not the case. Although the mandated capacity restrictions have kept the big productions on the sidelines, more than a dozen smaller shows are back in action. Following is a list of casino shows that are performing now: Extravaganza (Bally’s); “Delirious Comedy Club” (Downtown Grand); Thunder from Down Under (Excalibur); Piff the Magic Dragon and X Burlesque (Flamingo); Tape Face and X Country (Harrah’s); “Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club” (MGM Grand); “LA Comedy Club” (The STRAT); Murray the Magician, “Laugh Factory,” and “Rich Little Live” (Tropicana); and The Rat Pack is Back (Tuscany). Outside of the casinos, the Alexis Park hotel hosts four shows: Alain Nu, Amazing Magic Starring Tommy Wind, BurlesQ, and Jokester. Also, the independent Mosaic theater has three: Aussie Heat, Piano Man, and Queens of Rock. Be sure to call ahead for reservations.

Update  2/3 — A Different Kind of Super Bowl

With Las Vegas still locked in the “pause,” the question is what will the Super Bowl be like this Sunday? Traditionally one of the busiest weekends of the year, of course it’s expected that things will be slower, but how much so? Interestingly, several parties have been announced, but they’ll all have capacity limits that will tone them down from previous years. Similarly, some bars will hit limits that cause them to exclude customers. Your best bet for viewing is probably the casino sports books, where the scene will be rocking regardless.

Otherwise, the pause continues with 12 days remaining before the results of a reevaluation are announced. Check back for updates. 

Update 1/27 — Effects Being Felt

While the city awaits the Feb. 15 deadline for ending the current “pause,” the effects of nearly a year’s worth of restrictions are beginning to become evident. The casinos are short-staffed and we’re hearing about lots of service glitches, including a recent episode in which a customer showed up with a reservation for the Rio on a Monday, only to learn that the hotel is closed on weekdays. He was never notified that the reservation he was allowed to make wouldn’t be honored, then was given a two-hour runaround before he was finally placed at Caesars Palace (when he refused to go to Bally’s). The lesson: Don’t take anything for granted. Call before your trip to confirm that any reservations you’ve made are intact. 

The latest high-profile closure is the restaurant Elio at Encore. Elio opened briefly in June with much fanfare and operated only till November until it closed again and now will not reopen. 

Now that vaccinations are being administered everywhere (albeit with the much-publicized attending problems in distribution; Nevada ranks 49th in the U.S.), the question is turning to what effect it will have on Las Vegas’ near-term fortunes. One big question is what percentage of the population will take the jab, something we hope to get a feeling for with our current poll asking “Will you get vaccinated for the coronavirus?” Cast your vote and check out the results next week.

South Point continues to offer the only casino-located buffet in town. We gave it try and you can check out our report in our latest YouTube video.

Update 1/20 — Waiting Again (but the MRB is Good)

Just like during previous restricted periods, Las Vegas is back in a waiting posture as it serves its current 30-day sentence (the pause will remain in effect until February 15). This time feels different, however, as businesses are now familiar with the rules and have become resigned to having to do things differently. 

Many restaurants, both in and out of the casinos, remain closed, and most remain rigid on requiring advance reservations, but you can still usually finesse it at the door. The reservations requirement is in place even at the lone operating buffet at South Point. Of course, the show landscape continues to be baron.

Also affected is our Member Rewards Book, available to members of the Las Vegas Advisor. How could it not be? Whereas last year’s MRB had discount offers for 24 buffets, this year’s has 0. We have a 2-for-1 offer at South Point, but it’s for breakfast, which is currently suspended, and there were no other deals to be made. However, the book still has dozens of offers for restaurants, bars, and attractions, plus the best haul of gambling free-play, matchplay, and bonuses that we’ve ever had, reflecting the current emphasis on gambling in the casinos with so many other entertainment options out of commission. The total expected value of this year’s gambling offers is $622, with $65 of it in free-play. You can see the whole list here, and we’ve added a mobile-redemption component that allows us to bring on additional offers throughout the year, as buffets and other options come back.

Update 1/13 — Another Extension

Nevada’s governor didn’t bother waiting for the end of the week to hold a press conference and extend the pause for another 30 days. Previously scheduled to expire this Saturday, the current restrictions — 25% capacity in casinos, restaurants, and bars; reservations required to dine out; 50-max at gatherings, and strict mask rules — will remain in force until February 15.

Las Vegas businesses seem to be adapting and some are getting creative, e.g., setting up (heated) tents outside to accommodate more customers. But others are moving on, most notably, celebrity chef Hubert Keller, who’s leaving his two restaurants at Mandalay Bay, Fleur and Burger Bar. Fleur will reopen under MGM management and MGM says it hopes Burger Bar will return. 

Nothing much else has transpired. It’s pretty much sit and wait out another month as of now. There’s additional discussion on this subject in our latest YouTube post.

Update 1/6 — Still Paused

The first week of 2021 has been uneventful in terms of COVID-related developments. The current pause remains in effect and Las Vegas is rolling with it.

While the downtown party was canceled, revelers gathered on the Strip to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. No crowd estimates have been released, but reports are that the number was in the thousands, far below normal. Still, Las Vegas took some criticism for allowing any sort of gathering at all. 

Encore opened full time last week to take advantage of New Year’s traffic, but has now gone back to its weekends-only schedule. The Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmopolitan has re-closed, unable to operate under the 25%-capacity and reservations-only restrictions. COVID numbers continue to be high, so it’s anyone’s guess whether or not the pause will be extended again.

Update 12/31 — Good Riddance to 2020

Who’s ready for a new year? Just about everyone, no doubt. While there’ll be no “America’s Party” fireworks show tonight, the southern part of the Strip  from Treasure Island to Mandalay Bay will be closed to traffic beginning at 8 p.m. and a crowd of 200,000 is expected to gather. So much for social distancing.

There was supposed to be a party downtown with a $25 admission charge, but the plug got pulled on that this morning.

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What will the new year bring? Anthony Curtis addressed that in the January Las Vegas Advisor.

We titled this year’s Preview “Vegas Resets,” because that’s what’s next. Really, no other prognostications can be made: Las Vegas needs to bring it back in 2021 and that will require a massive reset, involving the return of restaurants, shows, bars, clubs, shopping, and everything else that defines this city. Vegas will get there, but it won’t be quick. Lots of people seem to believe that the switch will suddenly flip at 12:01 on January 1. It won’t. It’ll take a few months to even approach some semblance of normalcy, and likely the entire year to reach it.

The current “pause” is in place till January 15. Check for updates here and on the LVA YouTube channel.

Update 12/23 Cutbacks Everywhere

The Rio opened yesterday, but on the whole, casinos are cutting back as a result of low visitation. Starting January 4, the Mirage will be closed from noon on Mondays to noon on Thursdays in its entirety — hotel, casino, restaurants, and the rest. A Twitter announcement from MGM Resorts International indicated that the complete weekday closure shouldn’t extend past February, but the policy will be reevaluated as that time approaches.

The complete closure of the Mirage is significant, as it’s the first resort to do this since Encore (which continues to be completely closed weekdays). Others, including Park MGM, MBay, Planet Hollywood, and Palazzo, have closed their hotels on weekdays, though their casinos continue to operate. Casinos that remain completely closed are Palms, Texas Station, Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson, Main Street Station, Eastside Cannery, and Eldorado.

In the resorts that are open full time, including the just-opened Rio, many restaurants are closed or have reduced hours. And, of course, except for a few small productions, there are almost no shows running.

The situation is similar outside of the casinos, where many restaurants remain closed, or have reduced hours and menus. Bars with kitchens close early all over town and almost all have reduced menus. 

It’s been announced that there will be NYE party of sorts downtown (admission $25). We’re not sure how that’s gonna work, but we’ll report in the next Update.

An interesting side story that’s emerging is what appears to be an anomaly in recently reported gambling numbers, which are showing unexpected strength in some areas. Or are they? We’re running a Reader Poll right now about how your personal gambling habits have changed. Vote here.

We expand on some of these points in our new YouTube post.

Update 12/17 LVA Goes to YouTube

How do you like to consume your news? If you’ve been reading this blog since inception, including all 45 Updates, you might be pleased to learn that you can now stay up on the changes by watching a quick video on YouTube. We’ve been intending to create an LVA Channel on YouTube, but hadn’t settled on a way to kick it off until now. With questions constantly coming in about the state of Las Vegas during the pandemic, we decided that this was a good opportunity to initiate the channel.

In the first post, Anthony Curtis summarizes the situation and explains the current restrictions (also outlined in the 12/14 Update below). This video is 11 minutes, which is longer than we anticipate future Vegas/Virus videos to run, but that’s because of time devoted to bringing the story up to date. 

When you check out this first post, be sure to hit the Subscribe button on the right hand side beneath the screen to be alerted to new videos. Along with the virus and other news updates, we have plans for many other videos on Las Vegas and gambling as we expand the channel. 

Update 12/14 Pause Extended

Yesterday the governor announced that Nevada’s current “Pause” rules would be extended by one month to January 15. The original order could have been lifted tomorrow, but there wasn’t much belief that it would be in light of record bad COVID numbers. The big concern was that additional restrictions would be added, but except for a reactivation of the prohibition on evictions, nothing was changed. This means that the casinos remain open, subject to the occupancy requirements and stringent mask rules.

As noted in the previous Update, the governor is under lots of pressure to keep the casinos open, and rightfully so, as a shutdown of the gaming industry would be exceedingly damaging for the entire state. Casinos have been closed in Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, but they’re only a small part of the economy in those states and elsewhere. The general mood in Las Vegas is that of relief, as 25% occupancy is better than 0%. 

Hardest hit is the entertainment sector, where most shows simply can’t operate with a 50-person maximum (the rule is 25% or 50 total, whichever is less). The head of Spiegelworld, the producers of Absinthe, Opium, and Atomic Saloon Show, made a case (that we agree with) that shows should be in a separate category from other “public gatherings,” but no relief is in sight. MGM  Resorts International announced that it would cancel all live entertainment through Jan. 15, and presumably longer if the Pause is extended again.

Update 12/9 Waiting

It seems like everyone is just waiting. Waiting on a vaccine. Waiting on the next announcement about something that opened now closing again. And more than anything else, waiting on the next shoe to drop from the governor. Halfway through the “Pause,” the COVID numbers continue to be bad. California has locked down again and many fear Nevada will follow suit, as it has done up to this point. However, there’s intense pressure on governor Sisolak to not take that step, so it’s wait and see.

Meanwhile, fallout from the economic impact of the pandemic continues to show. Virgin Las Vegas is delaying its planned January 15 opening to an as-yet-undetermined date. The Palazzo is closing its hotel completely until December 23 (the casino remains open). The cancellation of downtown’s New Year’s Eve party has finally been made official. The Las Vegas Bowl football game has also been canceled after being played for 28 consecutive years.

Without the rodeo and as stimulus money dries up, the town is again eerily quiet, especially in the early morning hours, and it seems as if every day brings more negative news. We’re of the opinion that Las Vegas’ recovery is heavily reliant on the success and widespread distribution of an effective vaccine. Only when people feel safe to travel and mingle will things get back to normal. For now, it’s more about waiting it out.

Update 12/2 New Restrictions Taken in Stride

Last week’s new restrictions sent something of a shudder into restaurants and bars that weren’t sure about what they needed to do to be compliant. Several bars put their phone numbers on their outside doors with instructions to call first for a reservation. “Hello, do you have a seat for one? Good, I’ll be there in fifteen seconds.” No kidding, that’s what was being done. After a few days, though, things relaxed and it was determined by most that you don’t have to call ahead to get a seat at a bar to buy a drink or play video poker.

Not much was affected in the casinos. Some restaurants have reduced hours — e.g., Primarily Prime Rib and Baja Miguel’s at South Point are now open only three nights a week and the Oyster Bar has closed until further notice.  As expected, shows are being affected. Several that had intended to open won’t now—the big line-up of shows in the V and Saxe Theaters at Planet Hollywood, for example, have pushed their returns back to February.

Also affected will be the holiday season, which is already different from normal with the absence of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). Typically dominating the scene during most of the first two weeks in December, this year the rodeo isn’t coming to town. That’s not a surprise—it was announced in September that the NFR would be held in Texas this year—but now the reality hits. It’s another COVID blow to the Vegas economy.

As for other traditional holiday festivities, it’s not clear yet exactly what will and won’t be running. We can’t determine if the lack of announcements means something isn’t happening or that with so many other concerns, a casino simply hasn’t gotten around to promoting it. For example, a late press release confirms that there will be holiday events at the LINQ Promenade, but there’ve been no details released about plans at The Park at NY-NY, Sam’s Town’s holiday atrium, or even Underwater Santa at Silverton.

One question was whether or not the the  traditional deep discounting of rooms would show up in December and it mostly has. This year our survey found 39 casino hotels with base rates below $40. That’s a lower total than usual, but several casinos still haven’t reopened, so the smaller pool of casinos led to fewer in the discounted list. We also found 75 casinos with New Year’s Eve availability. Whereas this number typically dwindles quickly, we expect that won’t be the case this year. The full room-rate report with specific details is available in the December Las Vegas Advisor.

Update 11/24 Three-Week ‘Pause’

In a press conference held yesterday, governor Sisolak ordered that beginning at midnight tonight, and lasting for a three-week period, maximum allowed capacity at casinos, restaurants, and bars in Nevada will be reduced from 50% to 25%. Sisolak referred to the order as a “pause,” and it stops short of a complete shutdown; however, he threatened more severe measures if the limits aren’t taken seriously. This isn’t the worst-case scenario, but the new requirements are still relatively harsh. And here’s a shocker — they’re not completely understood by everyone. Here’s a breakdown of the key directives, along with some questions generated by feedback we’ve gotten.

Of course the 25%-capacity rule will create all sorts of compliance problems, not even considering their restaurants and showrooms. For example, will they block off three out of every four seats in the new sports book at Circa? Will customers be barred from entry on weekends?

Restaurants can seat patrons only if they have reservations and no more than four diners are allowed per table. No one really knows what restaurants this includes. While it would seem that dine-in table-seating is the target, some believe it includes fast-food restaurants and bars that serve food, even if not at a table. For example, can you walk into a bar to play video poker and order a hamburger without a reservation? No one knows, and some believe you can’t even walk in to buy a drink or gamble without reserving.

Masks are required at all times, indoors and out. This includes private gatherings “when you are around someone who is not part of your immediate household.” So are you expected to wear a mask if you’re in a car with a friend, or even in your own house with a non-family member? We don’t know. And these gatherings are limited to 10 people from no more than two households. It looks like your favorite uncle is out, and we don’t even want to think about which spouse’s in-laws get to come to Thanksgiving dinner.

The maximum size of public gatherings, which was recently raised to 250, has been cut back to 50. So stick a fork in the newly initiated comeback of live entertainment, at least for anything but the smallest-scale productions. MJ Live at the STRAT has already reclosed and the just-announced return of Terry Fator at NY-NY has been canceled.

Retail stores are allowed to remain at 50% capacity; however, those with more than 50,000 square feet of space must keep a count of customers at the door. Salons and spas are not subject to the new rules (whatever that means). Strip clubs must remain closed.

There’s a lot that remains to be seen here. Will people comply? What if they don’t? Will thousands be arrested or fined for walking outside without a mask? Will restaurants with open tables and no reservations on the books be fined for accepting a walk-in? We’ve heard there will be challenges on constitutionality, especially with regard to in-home gatherings. Three weeks of this. Does someone, anyone, have a vaccine handy?

Update 11/18 Nervous Time

Nevadans are on edge worrying about the possibility of another comprehensive lockdown. No one really has a sense of what will happen next week, but Nevada’s COVID-19 numbers continue to be disappointing and casinos in other states (Illinois and Michigan among them) have already been reclosed, setting a foreboding precedent. Adding a big wild card into the game, Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has tested positive for COVID and it’s anyone’s guess how that will play into the decision.

Only a week after reopening at MGM Grand, David Copperfield has reclosed after a member of the crew tested positive. The show reopened on November 6 and was canceled after the performance on November 13. Copperfield was quoted as saying that he doesn’t know when the show will return. Gone for good is the Cirque du Soleil production Zumanity, which has performed at New York-New York for nearly 17 years. However, Cirque has announced that contract extensions have been signed for five of its Las Vegas shows: Mystére, O, KÁ, LOVE, and Michael Jackson ONE, though return dates have not been set. 

With the New Year’s Eve Strip party canceled, there’s been a question about how Las Vegas will celebrate. At least part of the answer is with a Zowie Bowie-led concert live at Circa. The band that’s fronted by Chris Philips will perform from Stadium Swim on NYE in an event that will be televised in major cities throughout the west on Nexstar-owned stations (Channel 8 in Las Vegas). Zowie Bowie will be joined by a line-up of top Las Vegas showroom performers and an invited-guest crowd of about 500 will be allowed to attend.

Update 11/11 A Warning from the Governor

In a press conference yesterday, Nevada’s governor warned that renewed restrictions could be forthcoming if Nevada residents don’t make efforts to “stay at home as much as we possibly can.” The statement was made in light of accelerated virus numbers that mirror increases throughout the country, and while specific businesses or activities weren’t identified, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues figure to be the potential targets of renewed restrictions that could be put in place in as soon as two weeks if improved numbers don’t materialize. As of now, no steps have been taken to rescind previously granted permissions in any of these areas, though owners have been put on notice to be more diligent in enforcing mask and distancing rules and we’ve noticed that they’re reacting with stricter oversight in general.

Nowhere is the concern over the possible return of sanctions more evident than at the downtown casinos, where the mask enforcement borders on militant. At Circa, two of us moved from Mega Bar inside the casino to the outside bar thinking it might be a little less strict, but it was no different. We’re talking about two people who know each other standing OUTSIDE being scolded for talking without masks. We had to take our drinks out to the Fremont Street Experience commons to escape the scrutiny. This isn’t meant to be a condemnation on the casinos — they’re just trying to stay out of trouble with the regulators — nor a criticism of the mask edict, but you need to know what you’re likely to encounter.

Las Vegas has reacted with the expected optimism after the news that a vaccine may soon be available, with many feeling this is the most important development in restoring visitor confidence to travel. Caesars Entertainment has announced that the Rio will be open by the end of the year. If it happens, it will be the last of Caesars’ 56 properties nationwide to reopen after the shutdown. Also, the Las Vegas Convention Center reopens tomorrow for the first time since March to host a small two-day event, Mecum Auctions, with 1,000 attendees occupying four rooms of 250 people each.

On the negative side, recent victims of the pandemic include the Circus Circus buffet and Pamplemousse Le Restaurant, Las Vegas’ original fine French restaurant, neither of which will reopen. We expect more such announcements in the future, but the news isn’t always bad. The Hard Hat Lounge, located behind The STRAT on Industrial Rd., appeared to be closed for good, but has reopened, and with a good new Detroit-style pizza restaurant called Guerilla Pizza. Operating as a restaurant or bar since 1958, the Hard Hat is considered to be the oldest dive bar in Las Vegas and it was hopping when we checked on a Thursday night.

Update 11/4 Restricted Hours at Park MGM

In what could be the beginning of a trend, Park MGM has joined Encore in cutting back hours. As of this week, the casino is closing at noon on Mondays and reopening at noon on Thursdays. Some questioned if this had anything to do with Park MGM going smoke-free, but we don’t think so. MGM Resorts International is blaming low midweek occupancy rates and the absence of major meetings, conventions, and events. That sounds logical and there’s been talk of more casinos going to similar weekend-only operations.

In lieu of shutting down completely, if only for a portion of the week, targeted shutdowns are another money-saving option. For example, the Forum Food Court at Caesars Palace is now surrounded and blocked by plywood, with eight of the nine fast-food outlets closed. The pizza counter is open, while Starbucks has relocated to the Forum Casino on the other side of the sports book. Caesars says the closing is for “maintenance,” but hasn’t publicized a reopening date.

As a final kick in the teeth for 2020, for the first time since it started 21 years ago, the “America’s Party” fireworks show on the Strip won’t take place this New Year’s Eve. While it hasn’t been officially stated, it follows that the traditional mass gathering on the Strip will be disallowed. We assume that the downtown party will also be canceled; however, the Plaza has announced that it will have a display. In a statement, the LVCVA said to “stay tuned” for better news about ringing in the new year here.

Update 10/28 Getting the Conventions Back

First it was the bars, then the shows, and now the conventions. Realizing that Las Vegas needs convention business, plans are in the works to raise the capacity for conventions to 50% of normal starting on New Year’s Day 2021. Since October 1, most indoor and outdoor gatherings have been limited to 250 people, with capacity for larger venues capped at 10%. The raised capacity would heighten the chances that several large conventions scheduled for early next year would consider keeping their dates, whereas many that were scheduled earlier have canceled.

The last shuttered hotel-casino on the Strip, The Cromwell, will reopen on October 29 as an adults-only property, joining the just-opened Circa, which also has a 21-and-older policy. Like Circa, there will be an exception for the main restaurant, with those under 21 allowed at Giada. Adults only certainly seems like a reasonable way to go for a place like The Cromwell that has almost nothing to offer underage visitors. Or to Circa, which sure seemed like an adult playground on opening night.

Update 10/21 Big Shows Returning

In one of the most significant moves since casinos were allowed to reopen, MGM Resorts International has announced that it will bring back several of its bigger shows. The conventional wisdom had been that the existing limitations — 250 maximum occupancy and a required 25-foot distance between the audience and the stage — would preclude the return of the big shows. However, MRI says that beginning Nov. 6, the following shows will resume performances: Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club,” Carrot Top, The Australian Bee Gees, Thunder from Down Under, Fantasy, Jabbawockeez, and David Copperfield. Most significantly, David Copperfield will appear for 15 shows a week, same as before the shutdown, in his eponymous theater at MGM Grand and Jabbawockeez will move to the MGM Grand Garden arena, playing to 1.5% of the 17,000-seat capacity. While it seems unlikely that these productions can make a profit with the restrictions, MRI has made the first move toward bringing back high-end entertainment, which is a key part of the recovery puzzle.

In a surprise move, Caesars Entertainment has announced that it will reinstate parking fees at most of its casinos. The fee structure hasn’t been divulged, but beginning Oct. 30, non-registered guests will be charged to self-park at Caesars Palace, Paris, Bally’s, Flamingo, Harrah’s, and The LINQ. Visitors with Nevada ID and higher level players club members will continue to park for free. It sounds bad, but there’s an extra layer to this. Caesars Entertainment has indicated that it will “donate all parking fee profits to several charitable organizations who support Caesars team members and local communities in need, through the end of the first quarter in 2021.” That actually sounds noble, but that first quarter deadline suggests that it’s a soften-the-blow thing now in order to start up the parking gouge next year. In an irksome move, CET led its announcement with “Caesars Entertainment today announced an updated plan for its self-parking policy, intended to improve the overall guest experience at its seven reopened Las Vegas properties.” Oh, thank you.

The Rainbow Club in Henderson has reopened. Hoover Dam has reopened for walking and driving across, though the visitor center and tours inside the dam remain closed. There’s also optimism that conventions will begin returning in early 2021, with several scheduled for January remaining on the docket. Along with entertainment, the return of big conventions is an important goal that now looks close to being attained.

Update 10/14 Security an Issue

Outbreaks of violence persist on the Strip, forcing the casinos and Metro to take additional protective steps. On the casino side, Wynn Las Vegas was again first to react and has put new security measures into place. Everyone entering Wynn or Encore Friday morning through Sunday night must now pass through metal detectors and their bags will be searched. Hotel room keys are also scanned at elevator entrances. Additional security guards, all former law enforcement, have been hired and Las Vegas police officers are onsite. The “crisis and tactical response” includes a K-9 team, members of which we have observed patrolling inside the property.

Following suit quickly was the Cosmopolitan, where heightened security policies are now in effect for Friday and Saturday nights. On these nights you can’t enter the property unless you’re a hotel guest, show an Identity Club players card, or have dinner reservations. Patrons are also subject to a screening by handheld metal detectors, along with bag checks, and no open or oversized alcoholic drinks are allowed off the street. An LVA staffer went to dinner with her family on Saturday night and attests that these protocols are all in place, and then some. Two members of her party went outside after dinner to get some air and were denied reentry since they no longer had pending reservations (they were able to get back in by going through the garage entrance).

Expect more casinos to begin taking steps. At the D, for example, you have to show an ID to enter. We’re noticing that IDs are required more and more for everything — don’t walk around without one. Metro is also acknowledging the problem and has pledged a stronger presence on the Strip, both with uniformed and plain-clothed officers, via a program dubbed “Operation Persistent Pressure.” That increased presence is obvious. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that casinos are bringing back much of their security forces that may not have been immediately rehired after the shutdown.

The casino-security move might be the most important of all given what some people have been getting away with inside the casinos. The following photos/video were taken by an LVA contributor at 7 a.m. inside the Flamingo about three weeks ago.

People sleeping in the casino — no security.
This shirtless panhandler was aggressively soliciting customers right on the casino floor.

As you can see, the younger demographic (to put it softly) at the bar creates a menacing presence. These situations have to be addressed and it looks like that’s happening. Las Vegas is doing what it must to protect visitors and the perception that it’s safe to come here. Especially with these recent efforts, we continue to feel that there’s not a serious safety risk, but you still need to be vigilant.

In another big development this week, Wynn Resorts has announced that Encore will begin closing Monday through Wednesday beginning October 19 at noon. Until further notice, the entire resort will open at 2 p.m. on Thursdays and close at noon on Mondays. By that time, all hotel guests will be required to have checked out. All amenities at Encore, including restaurants, will operate during the new business hours. The five-day/four-night schedule will continue until consumer demand increases. Encore’s poker room will move to the Wynn and operate seven days a week. The poker area will be located on the casino floor near the sports book.

Update 10/7 Entertainment Comes Back Slowly

There were no major changes to policy this week—the bars remain open and the relaxed gathering rules are in place. The latter hasn’t resulted in anything significant in entertainment as yet, though there are lots of rumblings about some of the smaller shows starting up again. In fact, a few already have at some of the city’s non-casino entertainment venues. For example, the male revue Aussie Heat is performing at the Mosaic Theater, located on the south end of the Strip. According to John Katsilometes, whose “Kats!” column in the LV Review-Journal is an excellent source of entertainment information, Mosaic is quickly ramping up to a full entertainment schedule. It looks like the first casino showroom to open will be at the Downtown Grand, where the “Delirious Comedy Club” is scheduled to return October 15. There’s been no news regarding timetables for the return of the big Strip productions.

In other entertainment-related developments, the Springs Preserve nature park has reopened. And after postponing the football season last month, the Mountain West conference has decided to play after all. UNLV and other league teams will play an 8-game conference-only schedule that will start on October 24. UNLV will presumably play its games in Allegiant Stadium.

On the negative side, the National Finals Rodeo will take place this December as scheduled, but not in Las Vegas. Instead, NFR is moving to Arlington, Texas. The PRCA’s contract to host NFR in Las Vegas runs through 2024, so the event should return next year. Likewise for the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, which will also move to Arlington for one year. The closing of Regal Theaters nationwide affects 11 multiplexes in Nevada and nine in Las Vegas, including those at Aliante, Palace Station, Green Valley Ranch, Boulder Station, and Red Rock. It’s unclear when, or whether, the theaters will reopen. 

While you can get a free mask in just about any casino, you can win a fancy one at the D. Earn 100 points ($1,000 coin-in on video poker) and get a logoed mask. Offer valid while supplies last.

Update 9/30 Shows Get a Go-Ahead

Governor Sisolak has raised the 50-person limit on public gatherings to 250, opening the door for some showrooms and theaters to resume ticketed performances. Large venues, such as arenas and stadiums, can petition the state for a variance of up to 10% of capacity, as long as separate sections of seats are limited to 250 attendees, each with its own staff and entrances/exits. Venues are allowed to open immediately, but only after safety plans have been approved. This is the opening that many producers of and performers in smaller shows have been waiting for. It’s not clear yet what this means for the big productions, e.g., Cirque and Blue Man. The move also helps in the potential return of some convention business, which has been at a complete standstill for six months.

Another at least partial casualty of the pandemic is Monday Night Football parties. What used to be a Las Vegas institution is now on life support. Several MNF bastions of the past—most notably the South Point showroom parties—so far aren’t being held this year. That could change with the opening of the bars and the relaxing of gathering restrictions, but the scene has diminished substantially over the past few years and the casinos could decide to take this opportunity to walk away from the MNF parties for good.

Park MGM opened today. Tropicana, OYO, Henderson’s Rainbow Club, and the Four Seasons at MBay have also reopened. Planet Hollywood will reopen on October 8. That leaves The Cromwell as the only Strip hotel that remains closed. 

Update 9/21 The Bars are Open

Nevada’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force voted unanimously last week to allow all bars, taverns, breweries, wineries, distilleries, etc. to open in Clark County as of 11:59 p.m. last night. Customers are again allowed to sit in chairs at the bar where they can drink and play bartop machines for the first time in more than two months.

As we were for the reactivation of gaming machines in July, we were at the same local PT’s for the lifting of the counter restrictions las night. In stark contrast to the prior midnight visit, there was almost no buzz. Customers weren’t lined up to celebrate. There was no countdown. An employee slowly turned on the bar machines. As the night went on, a few customers walked up and sat at the bar and there was some talk of the restrictions being lifted, but it wasn’t an event.

One reason was that it was Sunday night and people had to work in the morning. Also, many bars had moved their machines to the floor, so it wasn’t as if bar gambling hadn’t been available. Regardless, we view this as a huge positive step in Las Vegas’ recovery and we predict that it will begin to have an effect on the energy level throughout the city. We’ll find out tonight when the Las Vegas Raiders play the New Orleans Saints in the christening of Allegiant Stadium.

Here are the bar rules as they’ve been explained to us.

If you enter with other people, you’re allowed to sit together or in adjacent chairs at the bar. Otherwise, unless machines are separated by plexiglass dividers, consecutive seats may not be occupied. There will also be even more stringent rules on wearing masks. You must have a mask when you enter. For the most part, you’ll be allowed to take it off when you sit down, but are required to put it back on whenever you stand or move around. It’s anyone’s guess how this might be enforced differently at different establishments, but for now, this is what’s required.

Update 9/15 Blaming the Room Rates

As mentioned in the previous update, many want to blame the heightened violence over the Labor Day weekend on low room rates, the argument being that low rates attracted the wrong class of visitor. The media latched onto the theory and soon that’s what everyone believed. It’s a convenient excuse. It’s also complete nonsense!

There are some important facts that fly in the face of this idea. For starters, low rates are nothing new. Las Vegas has turned to crisis pricing throughout its history to coax back customers during slowdowns. Heck, it does it twice a year even during good times in July and December to keep visitation propped up. If low rates bring a “bad element,” why is it this effect hasn’t shown up in any of the previous discounting periods?

Add to that the fact that the current level of discounting isn’t as low as in the past. Yes, there are some deals out there. Enough, in fact, that we’ve listed “Room Rates” in the LVA Top Ten for the past two months. However, the rates are nowhere near as low as they were after 911, the Strip mass shooting, or for several years during and following the recession, when we ranked room bargains at or near the top of the Top Ten from 2009 to mid-2016. And guess what? The rates weren’t discounted at all during the Labor Day weekend, with places like the Wynn charging north of $300 per night, plus a $45 resort fee. Do you think a lot of low-income travelers were jumping at the chance to come to town for a $700 two-nighter?

Still, this is the story that many want believed, because it draws attention away from the political aspects of the brawling in the streets, which leads to the inevitable questions about social justice, lawlessness, and leadership (or the lack thereof). Politics isn’t our gig, so you won’t find any proclamations here about which side is the righteous one. But we will say that transferring the blame for a bunch of knuckleheads causing trouble in a way that would eliminate one of Vegas’ most potent marketing advantages would be a big mistake. Right now, people need compelling reasons to come here, and offering an outstanding vacation value via a rocking room deal is as compelling as it gets. The policymakers who drink that room-rate Kool-Aid do so at this city’s peril.

In other news, the state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force has lifted bar restrictions in Washoe and Nye counties, but not Clark and Elko. That means that Reno bars can reopen completely, but Las Vegas bars still can’t. Another evaluation will be made this week.

MGM Resorts International has announced that Park MGM and its hotel-within-a-hotel, NOMAD, will reopen on September 30. They are the last of MGM’s properties to reemerge from the shutdown. Furthermore, both will open with smoking completely prohibited. It’s a gutsy move that hasn’t worked in the past, but could now given the circumstances of the day. For more on this subject, check out the results of our gambling and smoking poll.

Update 9/9 Bars No, Counters Yes

Nevada’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force determined last week that the Las Vegas bar restrictions would remain in place. Restrictions on restaurant counter tops, however, were rescinded as of today, which means you’re now allowed to sit at sushi bars, diner counters, and restaurants with seating at bars that don’t have gambling machines. Bars with bartop machines remain off limits.

A surprise came with the reclosing of the Wynn Las Vegas buffet this week. The Wynn said that the decision was based on negative feedback from patrons regarding the buffet experience. Put another way, the “serviced” format, by which food was ordered from a menu and delivered to the table, didn’t fly with customers. It was the same high-quality food that the buffet is famous for, but a big part of the buffet experience is being able to put your meal together perfectly, including getting the exact portions you want of the different offerings. Another negative to the format was having to order without seeing the food first. Wynn says it will rework the format and reopen on a date that hasn’t been determined. That leaves just two open buffets in Las Vegas, at the Cosmopolitan and South Point. The return of the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace also remains postponed indefinitely. 

A much bigger story brewing right now has significant ties to the state of the nation in general. Over the Labor Day weekend there were several violent outbreaks throughout the city, both in and out of the casinos. The reason given? Low room rates brought in a “bad element.” Huh? Room rates are to blame? That’s among the dumbest things we’ve ever heard relative to this subject, but everyone appears to be seizing on it as a viable excuse. Sorry, not us. We’ll have more to say in a subsequent Update.

As for Labor Day, official visitor numbers haven’t been reported, but the town seemed to be busy. Just ask people driving home on I-15 to LA Monday night, who found themselves in a good old-fashioned pre-pandemic 22-mile stop-and-go traffic jam.

Update 9/2 Banking on the Holiday

As expressed in the previous Update, many believe that tomorrow’s review will result in the lifting of the Las Vegas bar restrictions. One reason is that the Labor Day weekend is important to the casino and bar industries, but the notion is also supported by recent reports indicating that infection rates in Nevada are declining. We’ll post the decision in “Vegas News” as soon as it’s rendered.

After the bars, the biggest debate is over restrictions on live entertainment, stemming in large part from another case of the rules not being clear. The argument came to a head this week when governor Sisolak chose to dine out in a restaurant with entertainment, which many saw as a violation of his own order, as is asserted here. Sisolak responded that he was within the rules, indicating that “ambient music” is allowed. You can be the judge.

Recent pandemic-related developments include the cancellation of November’s big Veteran’s Day parade and the non-reopening of the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, which was expected in August but didn’t happen. Also missing its announced reopening date (again) was OYO, which was scheduled for September 1 and is now targeting September 15. There are rumblings that Park MGM could reopen on October 1, but it’s not official.

Update 8/24 Two More Weeks

Nevada’s COVID-19 Task Force ruled that Las Vegas and Reno bars must remain closed for at least two more weeks. This is the first we’ve heard of this “task force” calling the shots, but that’s the entity to which this decision has been attributed. There’d been lots of talk last week that the restrictions would be lifted on Thursday, but beleaguered bar owners will now have to wait for the next review.

A look at the calendar provides some insight into this decision. Nevada’s COVID numbers weren’t stellar, so delaying the lifting of the bar-closure order might not have looked good. Delaying two weeks from last Thursday means that the bars could open by September 3, which is conveniently just before the September 7 Labor Day Weekend. We’re going with a Yes on 9/3. If we’re wrong about this date, we’ll stop guessing (maybe). Meanwhile, bars continue to move their machines to the floor and it’s likely they’ll remain there, since distancing at bars will still be required when they reopen.

The Mirage will reopen on August 27, but the reopening of the Tropicana has been pushed back from September 1 to the 17th and that date is not firm. OYO is still scheduled to open on September 1. After opening earlier this month with partial hours, North Las Vegas’ Silver Nugget has asked for approval for an extended closure. The casino joins Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho, which are also in North Las Vegas, and Eldorado in Henderson, in seeking non-operational status into 2021. It’s also been announced that Virgin Las Vegas may push its opening back into 2021.

Cheetah’s gentlemen’s club has indicated it will not reopen and Sundance Helicopters announced that it has permanently suspended its tour flights in Las Vegas, though it will continue to provide contractual charter flights. Searsucker at Caesars Palace has reclosed for an undisclosed period of time and El Taco Feliz on Flamingo has closed for good.

Update 8/19 Waiting on Thursday

Once again, Las Vegans are holding their breath, waiting to find out whether or not the governor will allow the bars to reopen. Word on the street has been that this will be the week, but the day before the every-Thursday update, there are indications to the contrary. Who knows? We all will after tomorrow’s presser.

Assuming the answer is no, there’ll be no relief from the courts. Earlier this week a Clark County district court judge ruled that the governor’s order to close bars that don’t serve food didn’t violate the equal protection of, or due process for, the more than 60 bars that sued to have the directive overturned. That door is now closed.

Five Cinemark movie theaters have opened around the valley, the first time indoor movie theaters have been accessible since the shutdown in mid-March. The AMC theaters at Town Square and the Rainbow Promenade are scheduled to open tomorrow. Not opening at all is Le Reve, the Cirque-like aquatic extravaganza that opened with Wynn Las Vegas in 2005. It’s the first major production show to announce that it won’t return after the shutdown.

Here’s an interesting development. Some bars that didn’t serve food have created loopholes to remain open. For example, at Dino’s, the famous karaoke joint on Las Vegas Blvd., you’re required to order from a selection of $1 items that include hot dogs, corn dogs, and taquitos before you can order a drink. You don’t have to reorder if you get multiple drinks, but you must order at least one at the start. It’s not a bad thing, for a buck, the dogs are a deal. It’s even better at the two Sagos bars, where several of the video poker machines have been moved to the floor and the rule is you have to have to be served food to play. However, you don’t have to buy it. Both bring you comped chips and salsa when you sit down.

The reopening date for the Mirage has been announced for August 27. That leaves Park MGM as the lone MGM Resorts International property to remain shuttered. Reopening quietly last week was the Silver Nugget in Las Vegas. It’s open daily, but only from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Update 8/12 No Moves Made

There was no love for the bars in the first review date last Thursday, and they remain closed with another review expected tomorrow. Predictions on what will happen run the gamut, based on somewhat conflicting reports on infection rates. The primary purpose of this blog isn’t to report these numbers (we cover important disclosures in “Vegas News”), so we’ll continue to focus on the resulting practical matters.

We don’t know how prevalent this is, but it appears that cocktail servers on the casino floor will “sell” you a drink if you ask. We haven’t tested this, but one waitress we talked to laughed and said “it’s a hassle.” Another play is to bring your own. There are no rules preventing you from mixing a drink in your room and carrying it in, or buying beer or wine in a gift shop or convenience store.

Nothing new has transpired on the casino scene. The new reopening date for OYO is September 1, same as the neighboring Tropicana, but OYO has already missed two previously announced dates and the Trop’s date isn’t considered to be firm. Inside, the casinos continue to operate at partial power — many restaurants remain closed and there’s no entertainment of any kind, save for watching games on the big screens in the sports books. It still feels odd. We tried to sum it up in a word and settled on underwhelming.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t describe it for everyone. We continue to hear from visitors who say they had a fantastic time on their trip. We take it that this is the sector of the market for which gambling is the biggest draw, and you can certainly do that in abundance, with only the casino bar machines out of commission. Outside of the casinos, so many bars have now moved machines to the floor that it’s not practical to list them anymore. The local crowds are coming back, so you might find yourself on a waiting list if you want to play.

Note that opportunities for bargain hunters are also starting to emerge. As detailed in the August Las Vegas Advisor, room rates are beginning to drop. We’ve recently found weekday rates of $64 at Luxor, $61 at The STRAT, $58 at Orleans, $57 at Excalibur, $45 at Four Queens and El Cortez, and $41 at Wild Wild West, and these prices include resort fees. This week Caesars ran a one-day-only special for $10 rooms at Flamingo and Harrah’s. The booking window was only one day, but several LVA readers who are on our email list (sign up in the sidebar on this page) got the notice and were able to book.

Excellent deals in airfares are also available. In July, Southwest ran $49 one-way specials and Frontier ran $21 round trips. Anthony Curtis flew round-trip to Burbank for $78 and Reno for $58 after all taxes and fees. Check out the relevant blog posts by Michaels Trager and Friedman in “The Travel Game.” A recent post identifies the safest airlines to fly with virus aversion the primary goal: Southwest, JetBlue, and Delta. And you shouldn’t miss our new blog, “Conrad’s Capers,” through which thriftmaster Conrad Stanley tells you, step by intricate step, how to fly the budget airlines for the cost of a 10-mile Uber ride.

In other news, the giant SEMA convention has been canceled. There’ll be no college football at UNLV, as the Mountain West has postponed its season (possibly to be played in the spring). It’s also been announced that fans will not be allowed to attend Las Vegas Raiders home games throughout the 2020-2021 season. A proposal to allow a partial area of the stadium to be populated was rejected, meaning that as of now, NFL games will be played in a sparkling new, but empty, stadium. That’s not cool.

Update 8/5 Week-to-Week

In an address on Monday, Nevada’s governor indicated that the bars in the four counties with elevated risk, including Las Vegas’ Clark and Reno’s Washoe, must remain closed. However, there will now be a week-to-week evaluation, beginning August 6. Hence, there could be a reopening order as early as tomorrow.

Meanwhile, bars have been granted permission to convert up to seven of their bar-top gaming machines to stand-alones on the floor. Unless they want them there for long-term use, absorbing the expense of making this move doesn’t make much sense given that the governor seems to be clearing a way to open the bars at the earliest date that he won’t be condemned for doing so. We make a reopening order pick ’em for this week and -140 for this week or next.

In an earnings call this week, Station Casinos CEO Frank Fertitta III said there is no established timetable for the reopening of the Palms, Texas Station, or either Fiesta. On the bright side, Station has reopened the poker rooms at Red Rock Resort, Boulder Station, and Sante Fe Station. The rooms, which will be open 24/7, have plexiglass barriers between players, so the tables qualify to host eight players per. Face masks are mandatory for players and staff.

OYO missed its second announced opening of August 4 and is now targeting September 1. Um, OK. It’s also been announced that all Raiders home games will be played without fans allowed in the new stadium throughout the 2020-2021 season. The news came in a letter from the team to season-ticket holders last week. The Garth Brooks concert that was to christen the stadium on August 22 has been moved to February 27. Also, the Electric Daisy Carnival that was rescheduled from May to October has now been canceled completely. What’s next? Stay tuned.

Update 7-29 Phases Phased Out

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak in a televised address this week indicated that he will move away from the phase-by-phase method of determining the state’s recovery protocol. The move gives him some wiggle room in setting the rules, which was sorely needed given that the state was never allowed to progress from Phase Two of an originally planned minimum of four phases. Sisolak also lifted the bar closures in three of the seven affected counties, but bars must remain closed in Clark, Washoe, Nye, and Elko, which means Las Vegas bars remain off limits.

There’s certainly been no fudging about the closures. You’re not supposed to do any business near a bar, even if it’s just paying for a drink that was delivered to you on the floor. In fact, every kind of bar is closed, including salad bars in restaurants. At the South Point buffet, where Bloody Mary’s are free for breakfast and used to be lined up on a service bar where customers picked them up, they’re now delivered by the waitress (at $9.95, the breakfast buffet is an excellent deal, especially with the 2-for-1 voucher available to LVA members in our Printable Rewards). The move was a blow to the bar industry, prompting 37 Clark County bar owners to join in a lawsuit to overturn the order. That action is pending and doesn’t figure to have enough time to play out before the order is rescinded.

In the casinos, you’ll absolutely feel the effect when trying to get a drink. Unless you’re playing and being served comped drinks on the floor, or eating in a restaurant, it’s almost impossible to get a cocktail. Some of the lounges are open and you can get served there, assuming there’s a waitress on duty. The closure order is being reevaluated on a weekly basis.

Bally’s opened as announced on July 23 and a new opening date of August 4 has been scheduled for OYO. No additional news on casino reopenings has been forthcoming. Las Vegas’ biggest convention, the Consumer Electronics Show that comes to town annually in January, has been canceled. It’s the first major event to be canceled in 2021. Projected opening dates for shows continue to be pushed back, with September 1 now being a common, but unlikely, target.

Update 7/16 Bar-Closing Details

The bar-closing order is in place at seven of Nevada’s 17 counties — Clark, Washoe, Nye, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, and Lyon. Primarily because Clark contains Las Vegas and Washoe contains Reno, that encompasses nearly 95% of the state’s population. Not included is Douglas County, which contains Lake Tahoe; according to first-hand reports, the bars there are swamped.

It’s now been announced that the order will be reevaluated on July 24, which could mean that the closings will have lasted only two weeks. However, 37 bar owners have filed a joint-lawsuit seeking a reversal of the order. The complaint states that “there is no rational basis” for singling out licensed premises, ignoring other similar non-essential businesses.

Meanwhile, not all bars are closed. Many have remained open for food service, and a few have machines that are on the floor (non-bartops), which are open for play. So far we’ve confirmed that there are playable machines at Crown & Anchor East and West, Casino Valley Verde, Mad Matty’s, Winchell’s (Ann Rd.), and Four Kegs. This floor-location exemption also applies at supermarkets, convenience stores, and other non-bars with machines, as well as most Dotty’s, Jackpot Joanie’s, and others of their ilk.

The South Point has reopened its buffet. Diners must wear masks while they make their selections and the food is dished out by the waitstaff. Once back at the table, the masks can be removed. Caesars Palace’s Bacchanal Buffet is scheduled to open in August.

Lucky Club in North Las Vegas reopened without table games. It’s not known if the move is permanent, but other small casinos that have recently taken tables off the floor – e.g., Wild Wild West and Arizona Charlie’s Boulder – remain machines only.

The return of two more Strip casinos has been announced — Bally’s on July 23 and the Tropicana on September 1. That would seem to support the notion that demand is high enough warrant the reopenings. But is it? On the other side of the coin, starting July 21, the Palazzo will stop accepting room reservations for Monday through Thursday nights. The rest of the property will remain open weekdays, including the casino, restaurants, and Grand Canal Shoppes. The move supports what we’ve observed — crowd counts on weekdays have been low.

Update 7/10 — Bars Close Again

As alluded to in “Update 7/8,” there was talk that the increase in virus cases could possibly lead to the reclosing of some venues, still the governor’s order on Thursday to close the bars at 11:59 p.m. on 7/9 seemed to come out of the blue and has left many in a state of confusion, both as to why the order was made and what its specifics are. While the spike in COVID-19 cases was given as the primary reason for the shutdown, there was also a tone of retribution in the governor’s announcement, as if he wanted to make a point (or teach a lesson) to the establishments that weren’t properly heeding his warnings. Regardless, bars in Las Vegas, Reno, and some other areas of Nevada are in various states of closure, from completely closed to almost open.

It’s complicated, but by our understanding, the order prohibits access to bar areas, including bars in restaurants and casinos. Bars that serve food can continue to do so at 50% capacity, with patrons allowed to eat inside and order drinks at tables — or drinks only. The order effectively closes bars that don’t have kitchens. We haven’t had time yet to check this out in person; however, by the order’s wording, it should mean that any establishment serving food will be allowed to operate if they choose. This would include slot houses like Dotty’s and Jackpot Joanie’s. Unlike the first shutdown, the gaming machines have not been turned off, so Dotty’s et al. should also be allowed to accept gamblers, since their machines are on the floor and not at a bar. Same for certain bars, e.g., both Crown & Anchors, Mad Matty’s, and Casino Valley Verde, all of which have machines located on the floor. We’ll have to confirm this with a visit.

There’s a lot of discontent among the bar workforce that the casinos are allowed to keep operating. However, casinos must also shut down all of their bars — you can’t play at at bartop machine and you can’t walk up and buy a drink. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense and this deals another blow to the bar industry and those who work in it. No timetable for the enforcement of this ruling has been put forth.

Update 7/8 — Crowds Thinning

A little more than a month after the reopening of casinos and bars, things have begun to slow down. We’re seeing sparse crowds on weekdays and getting reports that indicate this is the prevailing situation in most casinos. Bars still appear to be doing better, bolstered by their local customers. The rise in Nevada’s COVID-19 count isn’t helping matters (see a summary of the numbers in the 7/9 “Question of the Day“). Are the casinos gonna close again? We don’t think so, but there’s talk out there that it’s a possibility. Vegas needs its fly-in traffic to come back, but people are still hesitant to fly. Consequently, there are some really good airfares out there, including $49 one-way trips on Southwest and Spirit (look for a “Conrad’s Capers” blog post scheduled for 7/11 that reveals tactics for bagging low fares on Spirit).

One thing that’s certain is the rules are getting tighter with regard to following safety mandates. Some casinos and bars now require that you wear masks even while drinking. You’re expected to lower your mask to drink, then replace it. A card being handed out at the D stipulates, “If you’re enjoying a beverage, sip, swig, guzzle, replace your mask … repeat.” The rigidity of enforcement varies, but the casinos and bars are protective given the zeal that’s been exhibited by state regulators, which have reportedly conducted almost 7,500 inspections of Nevada’s approximately 2,500 gaming licensees, or about three per establishment since reopening a month ago. It hasn’t been confirmed, but we’ve heard that Wynn Las Vegas drew a hefty fine for letting a high roller play blackjack without a mask. Others aren’t taking any chances and security jumps all over you if you’re spotted maskless on the casino floor.

Officially, all of Nevada will remain in its current Phase Two stage through the end of July after an extension was mandated last week. It doesn’t change much aside from extending already in-place rules on safety protocols and restrictions on most live entertainment. A recheck of the list of show openings in the “7/1 Update” shows all previous July openings now moved back to August. Similarly, the opening of movie theaters has been moved back, with most casino-located cinemas now scheduled to reopen on or around July 24.

The only consequential development in the schedule of casino openings was an announcement that Fiesta Henderson won’t reopen until June 2021 at the earliest. It joins Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station as Station resorts with their openings on definite hold, along with the Palms which remains closed without any clarification of plans. It was also announced today that the annual Global Gaming Expo, the largest gambling-industry trade show of the year that runs every October, has been canceled.

Update 7/1 — Masks Mandated

As conveyed in the appended “Note” in the previous update, masks are now required throughout Nevada “in all indoor public spaces and in outdoor spaces where people might congregate and where social distancing of at least six feet is not possible.” Exemptions include children under 10, anyone with a medical condition or disability that makes mask-wearing hazardous, and people eating and drinking at restaurants and bars. What that means is that as of now, if you enter a casino you have to wear one or you could be asked to leave. You can take it off if you sit down for a drink at a bar or are seated in a restaurant, but you’re supposed to put it back on if you leave your seat, even to go to the restroom. You have to wear it at all times when playing at a table or slot machine. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but after a while, it starts to become second nature. Depending on the mask, you can keep it handy by wearing it around your neck or sticking it in your pocket so you can put it on when necessary. This edict appears to be being taken fairly seriously. We’ve been prompted by security, or even patrons, to put on a mask on occasions where we’ve forgotten.

The masks are just the latest precaution, though the steps taken are different from place to place. Anthony Curtis described the situation in the July Las Vegas Advisor. “Some casinos check temperatures at the door; others don’t. At those that do, the techniques vary. I’ve been checked in five different ways. This isn’t a scary or arduous process, by the way. You might have to cue up briefly to be scanned manually or hold your wrist up to a machine. At some, it’s like posing for a picture. The best ones scan you from a distance as you approach. Not one of these involves being touched in any way. Some places offer masks at the door, but those that do are, so far, in the minority. Masks or welders-style face shields are worn by dealers, bartenders, waitresses, and even the dancers at the D and Golden Gate. Some casinos and bars have plexiglass barriers in place at the games. Others don’t. Almost every place offers free hand sanitizers, often from convenient dispensers. Employees are constantly wiping down machines and bar areas. There are lots of signs with instructions about distancing and hand-washing. Heck, Bellagio has a wash basin right on the casino floor. Wow!”

A second buffet has opened, with the Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon now serving brunch Friday through Sunday. Unlike the “serviced” approach (food ordered and delivered to your table) that’s in place at the Wynn, here you go to the food stations where servers hand you your food. The Wicked Spoon has always employed a small-plates format, where the portions are already determined, so the experience should feel relatively familiar. Reservations are encouraged. And unlike Wynn, which jacked up prices from $6 to $13, depending on the meal, Cosmo has held the line on the pre-pandemic $36.

The resistance to live entertainment continues, but efforts are being made. We did a call-around and found that about two-thirds of Vegas’ 90-some shows are selling tickets for dates between now and August 1. Do we believe them? Not really. But we won’t know till we’re there. Here’s the entire list: Alexis Park Black Magic Live (7/2); Bally’s EXTRAVAGANZA — The Vegas Spectacular (7/13), Paranormal (7/14), X Rocks (7/16), Xavier Mortimer’s Magical Dream (7/13); Bellagio O (8/1); Caesars Palace Absinthe (7/7), Wayne Newton: Up Close and Personal (7/13); Cosmopolitan Opium (8/1); Downtown Grand “Delirious Comedy Show” (7/2), Presto! Magic and Mystery (7/15); Excalibur Australian Bee Gees Show (7/15), Thunder From Down Under (7/15), Tournament of Kings (7/2); Flamingo Piff the Magic Dragon (7/13), X Burlesque (7/13); Four Queens Mike Hammer — Comedy Magic Show (7/17); Harrah’s Mac King Comedy Magic (7/14), “Mad Cap Comedy” (7/13), Menopause The Musical (7/13), Righteous Brothers (7/15), Tape Face (7/14), The Bronx Wanderers (7/20), X Country (7/13); LINQ: Mat Franco (7/13); Luxor Blue Man Group (9/13), Carrot Top (7/15), Fantasy (7/15); Mandalay Bay Michael Jackson ONE (8/1); MGM Grand “Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club” (7/15), David Copperfield (7/15), JABBAWOCKEEZ (7/16), (8/1); Mirage Aces of Comedy (8/2), Beatles LOVE (8/1), Boyz II Men (7/31); New York-New York Zumanity (8/14); Paris Anthony Cools (7/24), FRIENDS! The Musical Parody (7/13), Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man (7/13); Planet Hollywood All Shook Up (7/16), Beatleshow (7/16), Hitzville The Show (7/16), “Las Vegas Live Comedy Club” (7/16), Marc Savard (7/16), Mentalist Live (7/16), Nathan Burton (7/16), Popovich Comedy Pet Theater (7/16), Stripper 101 (7/16), THE JETS 80’s & 90’s Experience! (7/16), V – The Ultimate Variety Show (7/16), VEGAS! THE SHOW (7/16), Zombie Burlesque (7/16); Crazy Girls (7/13), Criss Angel MINDFREAK Live (7/15), iLuminate Presents: Happy Hour (7/13), Tenors of Rock (7/13); Plaza “The Comedy Works” (9/17); Rio Chippendales (7/13), “Comedy Cellar” (7/13), Penn & Teller (7/13), WOW — The Vegas Spectacular! (7/14); The LINQ Promenade “Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club” (7/15); The STRAT Celestia (8/1), MJ Live (7/1); Treasure Island Mystère (7/17); Tropicana “Laugh Factory” (7/1), Legends in Concert (7/2), Murray: Celebrity Magician (7/2), Rich Little Live (7/1?; Tuscany Rat Pack is Back (8/5); Westgate The Magic of Jen Kramer (7/1), SEXXY (7/1).

Aria and Mandalay Bay open today, OYO is scheduled to open July 15, and Station Casinos says it isn’t opening Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho until 2021, which leaves the following casinos still closed and without specified return dates: Mirage, Park MGM, Bally’s, The Cromwell, Planet Hollywood, Rio, Tropicana, Palms, Main Street Station, Eureka, Silver Nugget, Eastside Cannery, Fiesta Henderson, and Eldorado.

Update 6/24 — Settling In

It’s now been close to three weeks since the reopening of the casinos and Vegas seems to be settling into a routine. We’re not seeing a lot of consistency in crowd counts. One day a particular casino may be crowded, then a day later it’s close to empty. In general, however, it seems like the trend is toward diminishing counts. The bars, on the other hand, are doing well. Anecdotally, we observe that most are busy, and we’ve also heard that PT’s, for example, is exceeding its numbers from last year at this time.

The biggest update is in the rules for wearing masks. Last week Nevada’s governor mandated that masks must be worn by table-game players at all casinos. Today Caesars Entertainment properties took it a step further, announcing that all guests at its properties nationwide must wear facial coverings at all times, except when they’re drinking and/or eating. As of now, there are no other casinos in Las Vegas that have this rule. (Note: Only hours after we posted this update, Nevada’s governor Sisolak made an announcement mandating that masks be worn by everyone in public gatherings. This includes all casinos. The order goes into effect on June 26.)

One surprise has been poker. Rooms are open at Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Venetian, Orleans, South Point, and Sahara. The games were originally mandated to be four players max, but that rule has been relaxed to allow five players at most games and six at Bellagio, where plexiglass dividers separate the players.

Although they aren’t allowed to operate as they normally do, a few gentlemen’s clubs are open as bars. It’s a natural move for Play it Again Sam’s, which is one of only two topless clubs that has video poker machines (the other is Club Platinum, which isn’t open). But also open as bars are Centerfolds Cabaret on Paradise and Palomino Club in North Las Vegas. The Palomino actually has girls dancing, some topless with pasties, but no lap dancing. The other two do not have dancers.

If you go to the Fremont Street Experience, make sure you have ID. There’s some kind of new crowd control protocol in place that includes turnstiles at street intersections and possible ID checks. There’s no problem if you access the commons from one of the casinos. However, there’s a good chance you’ll have to show ID if you enter from either the east or the west ends. Since reopening, access to the FSE has been restricted to age 21 and over and security has been carding, regardless of age, at these entry points. If you walk across the street to the Plaza, for example, and want to come back the same way and don’t have your ID, you could be denied entrance.

Update 6/17 — Maintaining the Status Quo

In a news conference held on Monday, Nevada’s governor indicated that the state will remain in Phase 2 of its recovery plan, meaning nothing will change for the time being while infection data continues to be collected and studied. There was no timetable divulged for a move to Phase 3, nor any information about what actions that phase will mandate. All rules currently in place in the casinos remain, though a directive to more stringently encourage customers to wear masks was issued.

The big surprise is the opening of The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, which begins accepting guests on Thursday. As predicted, the first buffet to come back won’t offer traditional buffet service: Diners order from a menu and wait staff bring “well-portioned” dishes to diners’ tables, according to the press release, and diners can reorder unlimited helpings within a two-hour time limit. Reservations will be required. What we don’t know yet is what well-portioned means. One of the best things about a buffet is that you can take tiny servings of lots of dishes. Are you gonna tell a server to bring you two cherry tomatoes? Almost everything about this sounds like eating in a regular restaurant, but we’ve already received a report from a group that ate it during a practice run and “loved” the experience. Prices range from $36.99 for weekday brunch to $65.99 for weekend dinner.

The resumption of live entertainment at the Fremont Street Experience was supposed to take place today, but didn’t get out of the gate. After announcing that live bands were returning to its outdoor stages, state officials put the kibosh on the idea and we’ll have to be satisfied with DJs for a while longer.

There’s also been a lot of talk about requiring customers to wear masks. Some casinos, e.g., those in the Caesars Entertainment group (Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, Flamingo, etc.), require masks to sit at a table game. However, no casino has yet mandated that masks be worn just to enter.

O’Shea’s opened last week; Paris and Westgate open June 18; Aria, Mandalay Bay, and Luxor open June 25; and OYO has moved its opening up from August to July.

The following are closed with no announced opening dates: Mirage, Park MGM, Bally’s, The Cromwell, Planet Hollywood, Rio, Tropicana, Palms, Texas Station, Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson, Main Street Station, Silver Nugget, Eldorado, Eureka, Skyline.

Update 6/10 — Casinos Open

The casinos opened as scheduled at 12:01 a.m. on June 4, thus ending the shutdown at 78 days. Customers lined up outside the casinos waiting for the doors to open. In the bars, it was like a mini-New Year’s Eve where we were at one of the PT’s, with players positioned at video poker machines and counting down to midnight. The machines had to be physically turned on one by one and the players in the first seats were in action before they could get all the way around the bar.

We discussed discontinuing the blog at this point, but readers want to know how things are progressing and what the status is day-to-day, so we’ll keep it going for now. The one important point to make is that no one seems to know what the rules are. Each place has a different interpretation of how business is supposed to be conducted to stay within the prescribed guidelines for operating and seem to be making it up as they go. We’ll provide specifics in future updates.

One example of making it up as you go can be seen in the schedule of openings. Most of the casinos are open now, with the majority of closed casinos in the CET and MRI groups. As of this writing, open CET properties are Caesars Palace, Flamingo, and Harrah’s, but The LINQ is scheduled to open June 11. Open MRI properties are Bellagio, MGM Grand, and NY-NY. However, Excalibur is also opening June 11, with Aria, Mandalay Bay, and Luxor opening June 25. What’s odd about this is that MRI initially said that MBay and Luxor wouldn’t open until March/April 2021 and Aria not until July/August 2021. That’s one heck of a change in plans. It must be that the operators feel that demand justifies the rapid acceleration in the schedule. The casinos were busy over the first weekend and while the weekday drop-off has been noticeable, it’s not as drastic as expected. Here’s the list of casinos not yet open.

Westgate Las Vegas (scheduled for 6/18)

OYO (scheduled for 8/1)

The following are closed with no announced opening dates: Mirage, Park MGM, Bally’s, Paris, The Cromwell, O’Shea’s, Planet Hollywood, Rio, Tropicana, Palms, Texas Station, Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson, Main Street Station, Silver Nugget, Eldorado, Eureka, Skyline.

Update 6/1– Day 76 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

Yes, it’s Day 76, impossible as that sounds. On Day 57 we wrote, “When the first Las Vegas casino opens or the first bar fires up a video poker machine, we’ll mark that as the end of the shutdown.” That day should arrive Thursday, with the casinos cleared to open and bar machines set to be turned on at 12:01 PST on June 4.

The green-lighted businesses listed in “Update 5/27” opened on schedule on May 29. Among those businesses were bars, and we went out that evening to get a feel for the openings. We checked out 12 of them near our office on the west side of the Strip and five were open. The consensus is that the others are waiting for June 4. The open bars were mostly crowded, but not packed. Patrons were distancing, but masks were almost non-existent.

In an interesting development, Caesars Entertainment is opening Harrah’s on June 5 after indicating that only Caesars Palace and the Flamingo would open initially. The press release announcing the opening cited “much stronger than anticipated customer demand” as the Harrah’s trigger.

Clouding Thursday’s openings are complications from the nationwide civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. At first, the Las Vegas demonstrations were relatively trouble-free, but things have escalated significantly, including two shootings—one of a police officer who is in critical condition and a separate shooting of an armed demonstrator who was killed (see “Vegas News” for Nevada details). The casinos contend they will go forward with the Thursday opening schedule and we expect to see high levels of protection, both on the streets with the police and the National Guard if necessary and inside the casinos with their private security forces.

Update 5/27 — Day 71 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

There’s finally clarity on opening dates. The governor announced yesterday that Phase Two of the reopening of Nevada will begin May 29. The order clears the way for the opening of bars, gyms, fitness centers, spas, massage services, tattoo parlors, recreation areas, swimming pools, movie theaters, bowling alleys, water parks, museums, art galleries, indoor malls, and youth sports. It also allows church gatherings that don’t exceed 50 people. Casinos are excluded for another week, but pending instructions to be issued by the Gaming Control Board, they’ll be allowed to open on June 4. Excluded with no date for reopening given are nightclubs, day clubs, gentlemen’s clubs, brothels, and live sporting events. One area that hasn’t been discussed anywhere is the status of the gaming machines in bars, convenience stores, and other non-casino locations. We believe they will be inactive when the bars open on Friday and resume operation with the casinos on June 4. Phase Two is expected to run for two to three weeks. Following are additional updates.

Add MGM Grand — As described in the “5/13 Update,” most of the big operators will stagger the openings of their casinos. One new development is that MGM Grand has been added to the MRI resorts that will open in the first round, joining Bellagio and NY-NY.

Paid Parking Down — Shortly after MRI’s rescinding of paid parking, the Cosmopolitan and Caesars Entertainment followed suit. Parking is now free at all Strip casinos; however, Caesars, MGM, and Cosmopolitan have all left the door open to reinstate paid parking at some point in the future. Downtown casinos continue to charge, but they all have easy validation options in place.

Resort Fees — (Note: We originally wrote here that the Sahara had dropped its resort fee. That may have been inaccurate. We are investigating.)

Promos Begin — Derek Stevens of the D and Golden Gate is giving away 1,000 free flights to Las Vegas from more than 20 major U.S. cities. Stevens’ “Keep America Flying” promotion is intended to help stimulate the Las Vegas tourism and national airline industries. Participants can book a seat by signing up at theD.com on a first-come first-served basis; the cities that still have seats available are listed there. The fine print: Tickets are one-way only. Accommodations and all additional costs are the recipients’ responsibility. It’s the first of what we expect to be many good and interesting promos to materialize. (Note: Less than an hour after we posted this, the tickets were sold out.)

A.C.’s Take — Anthony Curtis was a guest on Michael Trager’s “ZorkCast.” Michael is one of the principals (with Mike Friedman) behind our blog “The Travel Game” and a lot of ground was covered in this discussion. The show can be viewed on YouTube.

Update 5/18 – Day 62 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

It’s now been two months since the shutdown began. The end date has been extended again to May 31 with the reason given for the extension being a need to collect more data before Nevada can move from the current Phase One to Phase Two. No other details have been forthcoming. Since no one seems to know what these phases mean anyway, and there’s been little in the way of hard information coming out about who’s opening and when, the information that appears earlier in this blog continues to represent our best guesses regarding timetables. Following are some general updates.

Free Parking at MRI — Here’s the big news. When they reopen, all nine of MGM Resorts International’s hotel-casinos will return to free self-parking. According to the statement, “MGM Resorts is updating many of our offerings as we prepare to welcome back guests, and that includes implementing free parking,” adding, “for the foreseeable future.” Charges for valet parking, when it returns, are expected to remain in place, as well as paid parking for events. This is just the start. We’d be shocked if any company opens with parking fees.

Downtown Field Trip — Container Park opened last week. The collection of restaurants, bars, and stores in the Fremont East District attracts good crowds, so we wanted to check it out on opening night. The park wasn’t teaming, but it wasn’t deserted either. Some restaurants and stores are open, though the playgrounds are closed and the mechanical praying mantis is dormant (it usually bobs up and down and breathes fire).

Also closed are the stand-alone bars. Bars without food, as well as the bar areas in restaurants are closed off.

Several downtown restaurants are also accepting dine-in customers. Not on the casino end, which remains closed, but on the Fremont East side. Which brings us back to getting a drink. We don’t know where the May 23 date came from in the above photo and if things will change then, but as of now you can’t just walk in and buy a cocktail anywhere. You can get drinks in a restaurant, but you have to order food. It doesn’t have to be a full meal. Get a table, order an appetizer, then order up on the drinks. It’s a play we saw being used in multiple places, especially on the outside patios.

Restaurants in Casinos — Even with the casinos closed, their restaurants are allowed to be open. However, there’s a proviso: The restaurant has to have an entrance from outside or from a route that doesn’t traverse the casino floor. The same is required of restrooms. That means a restaurant that has outside access but restrooms outside of the confines will still not be able to operate. The rule ensures that you won’t see many, if any, resort restaurants opening until its casino is also open.

Casino Openings in Other States — Almost everyone assumes that the casinos will be empty immediately after reopening, but there’s evidence to the contrary considering openings in other states. In every instance of a casino reopening thus far, big crowds have materialized. The most recent example was the opening of five casinos in the Phoenix area last week, where customers indicated they were having problems finding vacant machines due to the crowds. According to reports, about half of customers have been wearing masks.

PT’s Video Poker Tournaments Return — The free PT’s video poker tournaments are back, running through June 7. The prize is a 2-day stay and $300 in comps at The STRAT or one of Golden Gaming’s Laughlin properties. It’s not as juicy as it was the first time around, but it’s a fun freeroll for a decent prize that’s awarded to each of the first five finishers. See the 4/19 Update in this blog for details on how to play.

Update 5/13 — Day 57 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

First things first. As per the previous update, Las Vegas’restaurants and retail stores are beginning to reopen. So are we still in theshutdown? The business of Nevada is gambling and entertainment, and as of now,there’s none of that going on. So yes, in our estimation, the shutdowncontinues. When the first Las Vegas casino opens or the first bar fires up avideo poker machine, we’ll mark that as the end of the shutdown. We might begetting close, but things change daily and it’s not easy to keep score.

Opening dates continue to be a moving target, with the casino companies routinely changing plans. There were declarations of May 15, but today is May 13 and we’re pretty confident that it’s not gonna happen in the next two days. Whereas Wynn and Sands were both targeting June 1, Wynn now says earlier and Sands says later. Wynn sent out a memo to its employees naming May 26 as the back-to-work date, so that’s now the leader in the clubhouse. Or is it? TI just released a statement saying it will open on May 22. Sands says, “sometime in June.” We won’t know for sure until someone unlocks the doors.

Of greater interest now is which casinos will open. Companies with multiple casinos are tending toward opening only some of them, then bringing in the rest on staggered schedules. For example, MGM will open Bellagio and New York-New York only to start. That’s its top high-end property and the most efficient lower-end option. That sounds reasonable, but look at the rest of the plan. It’s not official, but we’ve received reports from multiple sources indicating that the current schedule for the reopening of the other properties is as follows:

Park MGM                  October2020

MGM Grand               January2021

MBay/Luxor               March/April2021

Aria                             July/August2021

Mirage                        Oct./Nov.2021

Really?

Caesars appears to be adopting the same strategy. Thecompany held a press conference this week during which it didn’t say muchbeyond describing its distancing and sanitary procedures. But the following dayit came out that CET would open Caesars Palace and a yet-to-be determinedlower-end property first, with no defined schedule for the others. StationCasinos also says it will not open all of its properties at once. According tothem, Texas Station, the two Fiestas, and the Palms will not reopenimmediately. It’s unclear whether or not Palace, Boulder, Sunset, and Santa FeStations, along with Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock, will come back as soon asit’s possible, but the former four will not. Boyd says it may not open itsthree downtown casinos — Fremont, California, and Main Street Station — rightaway.

Crazy!

What’s behind it is almost certainly the uncertainty of what will happen when the doors are thrown open. Interestingly, some of the early openers around the country have experienced immediate demand.

At the opening of the ThunderbirdCasino in Oklahoma, which allowed only 50% capacity in the casino, there was aline of 200 waiting to get in. After the opening of the Northern Quest Resort& Casino in Washington, a casino executive effused, “We are slammed.” InMontana, Golden Gaming reported brisk business after resuming its slot routeoperations.

These are regional casinos thatare supported almost entirely by their local drive-in day-trip customers. LasVegas’ “locals” casinos have similar customer-bases, so might also experienceat least a decent early surge. The Las Vegas Strip faces a more difficultchallenge with its reliance on fly-in extended-stay customers. Things are gonnabe tougher there.

Update 5/8 — Day 52 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

In a news conference yesterday, governor Sisolak declared that the state would enter Phase One of the recovery plan at 12:01 a.m. on May 9, almost a week earlier than originally planned (the period up till now has been termed Phase Zero). Businesses that had been deemed non-essential will be allowed to open. This includes allowing non-casino restaurants and bars that serve food to accept dine-in customers, but only for table seating (no sitting at the bars). Also allowed to open are retail businesses, salons, auto dealers, and marijuana dispensaries. Businesses that remain restricted include casinos, bars that don’t serve food, nightclubs, gyms, spas, movie theaters, bowling alleys, tattoo and piercing parlors, strip clubs, brothels, and malls.

Businesses that open will have to adhere to strict sanitary and distancing guidelines. Among them, employees who deal with customers will have to wear masks and establishments are restricted to only 50% of previously allowed occupancy levels. In an odd requirement, only customers with reservations at restaurants and appointments at salons can be accepted. This Phase One designation is scheduled to run through May 31, but could be altered sooner.

There’s still no designated date for the casinos to reopen and gaming machines in bars remain turned off. Casinos can open when approved by Nevada Gaming Control, which has put out a long list of rules and procedures that must be followed. The specific process by which a casino can be granted permission to open has not been disclosed, but it appears that Gaming will pretty much leave the timing up to the individual properties. Wynn Las Vegas has moved its target back to June 1, which is in line with Sands Corp’s announced plans. All that have commented indicate that they intend to open in stages, which means hotel and partial casino and restaurants.

Update 5/2 — Day 46 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

The second lockdown deadline (April 30) has now come and gone. Last week governor Sisolak extended the deadline for another 14 days and we’re now looking at May 15 for the possible lifting of the stay-at-home order. However, starting May 4, some restrictions regarding non-essential retail businesses, worship services, and outdoor activities will be eased. The announcement answered some questions, but not the big one: When will the casinos open?

Governor Sisolak has refused to answer that one. In an interview on “Good Morning America,” he stated that the casinos won’t open till “Phase Three or Four” of his plan, but he’s never laid out what that plan is. It looked a lot like he didn’t want to be on the hook to make that decision and he pretty much confirmed that in a local interview in which he said, “when the casinos open is up to Gaming Control.” OK, at least we know to whom the buck has been passed.

In the lead story of the April Las Vegas Advisor, Anthony Curtis took a stab at predicting an opening date:

The easing of prohibitions through May 15 is fairly extensive, which helps clear a path for a complete opening. Other states will open their casinos in the interim. The federal government, led by the president, is pushing for all businesses to open. More important than any of these, the public is getting antsy. There’ve been protests and open-Las Vegas petitions. Mayor Carolyn Goodman (wife of former mayor Oscar) has been on a mission to lift the ban, a mission that she’s taken to the national media. The tactic has had mixed results, punctuated by a high-profile skirmish on CNN with Anderson Cooper that put her in the crosshairs of dissenters, but it elevated her agenda. Finally, the casinos are setting their dates, which is a not-so-subtle application of pressure. That pressure will only increase as the red ink adds up. All of this points to casinos opening earlier rather than later.

May 22 is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and would seem the perfect choice, coinciding with the date that the Wynn has already announced. The problem is Sisolak’s “Phase Three or Four” statement. If he remains firm on that, May 22 seems too close to May 15 to move two or three phases. So while I previously thought that lasting till June was out of the question, I now feel that it’s the favorite.

If it happens, it will be early June. I’d be surprised if it’s mid-June and no way does it get pushed back to July. As mentioned, Venetian/Palazzo has been targeting June 1 all along and those guys seem to be pretty dialed in. June 1 also provides another two weeks’ cushion, so the governor saves face. Mark me down for June 1.

Sisolak’s handoff to Gaming Control occurred after AC referenced it and removes a significant barrier. We now feel that the casinos are big favorites to open in the window of May 22 to June 1.

The week of the LVA deadline, we did a call-around to see when the casino hotels were accepting reservations. There wasn’t room to run it in the issue, but here are the results.

AcceptingReservations May 14

Downtown Grand

AcceptingReservations May 15

All Caesars properties, all Station properties, all Boyd properties, Cosmopolitan, TI, South Point, OYO, the D, Golden Gate, Tuscany

Accepting Reservations May 22

Wynn, Encore, Sahara, Westgate

Accepting Reservations May 29

Plaza

Accepting Reservations June 1

All MGM properties, Venetian, Palazzo, Four Seasons (MBay), Elara (Planet Hollywood)

All not listed weren’t accepting reservations. These are the hotels only, but it’s a good bet that most won’t be opening hotels without their casinos. Since we did the survey, MGM Resorts International made a statement that NY-NY and Bellagio are the two most likely of its properties to open first. Boyd indicated it would open its casinos at the first opportunity. Wynn/Encore changed its date from 5/15 to 5/22. It’s a fast-moving target. Watch this blog and “Vegas News” on the home page for the latest.

Update 4/25 — Day 39 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

When? That’s the question everyone is now asking. When will the casinos reopen? That’s a tough call. In an hour-long press conference last week, Nevada’s governor presented a plan that had no dates, but is reliant on reported infection results for reopening actions. He definitively stated that schools would not reconvene this year, but remained noncommittal about when casinos, bars, and other closed businesses, will be allowed to reopen. As of now, the general closure order remains in effect until April 30, but we feel that a lifting on May 1 is unlikely. Wynn/Encore and TI have announced their plans to open on May 15, but that’s subject to approval. Venetian/Palazzo says it’s targeting May 31.

While the politically correct stance is to advocate that the shutdown continue for as long as it takes, no one knows what that means and people are beginning to get antsy. Along with the casinos applying some slight pressure by naming their own dates, there’ve been a few public demonstrations calling for a return to work and other states are beginning to open up. While the April 30 deadline will probably be extended, we don’t think it’ll make it to June. We make Wynn’s May 15 the over/under at this point.

In the meantime, events continue to be canceled or postponed. The most high-profile of them is the 51st World Series of Poker, which was set to begin May 26. The tournament is now being targeted for fall 2020, with exact dates and events to be determined. The Electric Daisy Carnival finally gave in and is moving from May to October. And the three-day Life Is Beautiful Art & Music Festival that was scheduled to take place Sept. 18-20 throughout downtown, has been canceled completely for this year.

While the casino showrooms don’t face permanent closure, they figure to be among the last components of the resorts to come back. For example, MGM Resorts International has postponed the reopening of its entertainment venues from May 10 to June 1 as a best-case scenario. The shows and events are all moving targets, but we’re staying on top of it and continue to put up the latest listings as we get them.

We’ve also mentioned that some buffets won’t come back, but here’s some welcome news if you were worried about buffets going away completely. The 600-seat Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is earmarked for a $2.4 million remodel. It’s safe to assume that Caesars wouldn’t be spending that money if the buffet wasn’t reopening, and the revamped Bacchanal will probably open as a blueprint for how buffets will be put together post shutdown.

Reminder. You have until the end of day tomorrow (4/26) to play the PT’s weekly contest described earlier in this blog. We thought it was all video poker, but this week it’s Caveman Keno. It’s fun, free, and a link to the past and future of an open Las Vegas. Give it a rattle.

Update 4/19 — Day 33 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

Looking for something to do? Here are a couple of free and fun online diversions to scratch your video poker itch. Play them both from home while you wait out the shutdown.

Video Poker Tournaments — PT’s Entertainment Group is running the “$15,000 Stir Crazy Weekly Video Poker Tournament,” a free-to-play online contest with $5,000 in weekly prizes. The tournaments run for three weeks and today is the last day to play in Week 1. You have to download the PT’s app and have a True Rewards (or former Golden Rewards) card to play. Players get 10 or 20 entries per week, depending on tier level. There’s nothing in the rules that excludes out-of-state play, so if you have a card, you should be able to participate.

Each entry plays 20 hands and the top 10 places are paid, with $1,000 each going to first and second place. Of course there will be lots of players, so you have to shoot for big results. This means playing the game with the highest variance, which is Triple Double Bonus. If you hold off till the last couple of days of each tournament to play, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to shoot for and you’ll probably need 4 Aces with a kicker or a royal to get into the money. That means you should be keeping aces at all opportunities and usually throwing away lesser pairs, straight and flush draws, and even made straights, flushes, and full houses.

You’re not playing video poker here; you’re playing a video poker tournament.

Go the the PT’s website to get sign-up instructions. If you read this post after April 19, you can still play the Week 2 tournament through April 26 and Week 3 through May 3.

LVA Game Room — The negative with the PT’s contest is that when your entries are exhausted, you can’t play anymore. That’s OK, you can switch to the LVA Game Room. This is an area we haven’t fully developed, but you can play two good games there for free.

The first is Ultimate X video poker. If you haven’t playedthis game before, here’s your chance to try it. In Ultimate X, you play 10coins per hand and get only the 5-coin payouts, but you also get multipliersup to 12X) on ensuing hands when you make paying combinations. The game cantake you on some wild rides and you get to test drive here at no risk.

The second is an experimental game called Super Texas Hold’Em. This is a Texas hold ’em derivative that’sseeking floor trials, so you won’t find it in casinos yet, but perhaps soon.It’s intuitive and fun. We want to put up new games like Super TexasHold ’Em in this section, so customers have a chanceto try them out and provide feedback. We’ll work on building it out, but fornow, you’ll find it a good diversion.

Update 4/18 — Day 32 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

We’re now two days beyond the original casino-reopening date and looking at just under two weeks until the expiring of the shutdown extension. We get a lot of questions about what we think will happen on May 1. If we had to bet, we’d take the over on that one, though not by much. Pressure to reopen is mounting. We wouldn’t be surprised if some casinos open on May 1, but we’d be very surprised if almost all casinos aren’t open by June

Will all of the casinos reopen? That’s not easy to answer. The Lakeside Inn on Lake Tahoe’s south shore has already announced that it will not. The government stimulus programs have been unfriendly to smaller casinos, so there figures to be more like Lakeside. What about bars? This is another bad situation with gambling, even as it proliferates throughout the U.S., being treated differently than other businesses. For unclear reasons, bars and taverns that make more than half of their revenue, or more than $1 million annually, from gambling are disqualified from getting federal aid. As a result, many gaming bars have not only been forced to close, but also can’t participate in a stimulus program. It’s a terrible inequity, in our view, that may lead to permanent closures of watering holes that have pretty much been institutions for decades.

Most of the big projects — Allegiant Stadium, LV Convention Center, Resorts World, Circa — continue to move forward, despite some positive coronavirus cases popping up. Add to this group the conversion of the Hard Rock to Virgin. The CEO of Virgin Las Vegas says that neither the scope nor the timetable of the project has been altered and plans still call for the resort to reopen at the end of this year.

Another question that’s coming up is whether or not the buffets will return, given the expected changes in protocols in public areas, including restaurants. Though not confirmed, it’s believed that the buffets at the Golden Nugget and Treasure Island will not reopen at any point. While a wholesale discontinuance of buffets is unlikely, a reduction in the number of options available is almost a certainty.

Props to the casinos for doing what they can to bolster spirits. In an obviously coordinated effort, select illuminated rooms in the front of a number of Strip hotel towers have spelled out messages of unity and promise. Wynn and Encore have led the way. Rooms at Encore are lit in the shape of a heart, while the Wynn’s, which originally spelled out “#Vegas Strong,” now displays “Hope Shines Bright.”

Oh hell, did we mention it’s 74-degrees with blue skies at 5 p.m.? We gotta get this place opened up.

Update 4/12 — Day 26 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

It’s Easter. Normally we’d have posted lists of Easter-egg hunts and other activities along with a “Vegas News” reminder about special meals and crowd counts. There’s none of that on this Easter. Of course, everyone was prepared for a holiday in quarantine — all of Nevada is still under lockdown till at least April 30.

So what will happen then? Several casinos have made statements that they’ll be up and running on May 1, but that can happen only if the order to close isn’t extended and that’s pick ’em at best. One sector that won’t resume by May is entertainment. Most shows aren’t scheduled to resume until June at the earliest.

Yesterday the Air Force Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds, which is based at Nellis, thrilled Las Vegans with a 25-minute flyover of the area’s 16 hospitals that are caring for the more than 500 people here who are being treated for COVID-19. The flight path spanned the entire valley, from Summerlin to Henderson. Six aircraft participated, flying in a tight formation, sometimes only three feet apart, at speeds of up to 450 mph.

Anthony Curtis was in his office when they flew by. He describes a deafening roar then a clear glimpse of the formation for only about a second before the planes blew by his window and were out of sight. These babies move! You can see some good footage in a series of videos posted on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website. The footage is spliced together haphazardly, but there are some good shots, and if you persevere you’ll eventually get to some amazing views from inside the cockpit.

By the way, Anthony is the only one in the office every day. He’s using the time to work on several book projects that we won’t release until the casinos reopen, but there will be some good ones coming your way.

Update 4/8 — Day 22 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

The shutdown continues, but here are some bright spots.

Do you have a Nevada State Bank credit card? If you do, use it for restaurant take-out and delivery service and get 10% cash back. That’s a big perk that runs until further notice.

The list of restaurant deals for take-out or delivery from various sources continues to grow. Of course a deal is good only if you can get it, which sometimes requires that you take precautionary steps. The reason is that there are always lots of moving parts involved with third-party discounting. Normally there’s time to work out the kinks. However, that luxury doesn’t exist in this current climate. Hence, it’s possible there will be a certain amount of confusion based on breaches in communication. Here’s an example.

One of the best under-the-radar restaurants in the Chinatown area is Shang Artisan Noodle (Chinatown is predominantly in the Spring Mountain vicinity, while Shang is on Flamingo). As described in Eating Las Vegas, Shang features “dinner and a show,” as they cut their hand-pulled noodles in full view. The website Exclusively Vegas listed a 10% discount on your order, but when we brought it up at the restaurant, the employee at the door was perplexed. This is where things can get sticky; however, we’d printed out and circled the offer.

We could also have brought it up on our phone,but the printout is even more direct and hard to argue with. Result!

If you call in the order, it’s best to bring up the discount at that time, and if they don’t know about it, tell them you’ll bring in the back-up. We also used the NSB credit card for another 10% in cash back. The whole thing, not including tip, came to about $23 with the discount and the credit card recoup (Shang’s beef pancake is fabulous).

Throughout the crisis, we’ve hinted the there’s a bit of a disconnect between Las Vegas and the rest of the world in that the effects of quarantining are far more deleterious here than in most other places. A recent opinion piece in the New York Times written by Brittany Bronson, a UNLV English instructor/former cocktail waitress, hits the nail on the head. Give it a read.

Update 4/6 — Day 20 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

Absent of major policy news, we’ll be updating this blog with relevant related sidebars that are attached to the shutdown. For example, it was reported that there were 353 reports to the police of businesses staying open in defiance of the governor’s closure order. Of these, 70% were not acted on (business was deemed essential, was closed when visited, etc.). It kind of points to a lot of people liking to rat on others, whether justified or not. Ah, teamwork.

There’ve been a few cases of workers testing positive on the big construction projects where work has not been suspended. Thus far only The Drew and The Sphere have halted construction, but it feels like only a matter of time before the others will shut down, either voluntarily or by order.

Our suspicions about increased roadwork on the Strip were confirmed by an article in the LV Review-Journal indicating that work that was formerly limited to nighttime hours has now been approved during the day. Consequently, the Strip has been reduced to one lane in each direction between Spring Mountain Rd. and Sahara Avenue. Similar increased roadwork is also taking place on Koval Ln. between Tropicana Ave. and Sands Avenue.

We received a letter from an LVA member suggesting that this might be the best time ever to take photos in front of famous icons on the Strip. That’s probably true; however, you’ll have to find a parking spot and walk a ways, as almost all the casino parking entrances are blocked off. That didn’t stop another LVA member from having a “picnic” in front of the Caesars Palace fountains.

“Unlike any Strip experience ever. I didn’t hear traffic or loud music or obnoxious people. Actually the predominate sounds were of birds chirping on a nice spring afternoon.”

He’s heeding the rules. He didn’t get in trouble. Pretty cool.

Update 4/1 — Day 15 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

Did you think there were only two weeks to go? Think again. Today Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered that the state’s casinos remain shuttered through April 30. Sisolak’s original 30-day mandate, issued on March 17, would have allowed the casinos to reopen on April 16, but that’s now off the table. Some hotels had been accepting reservations for April 16 and beyond; those bookings will be canceled. Will this be the last extension? Unlikely. The governor appears intent on going hard in this direction.

We did a drive-around last night that included the airport and the south end of the Strip. We wouldn’t describe it as desolate, but at a minimum, it’s bleak . Among the most stark visuals are the frozen escalators on the pedestrian bridges and the emptiness in front of the Bellagio fountains (which also are shut down). Amidst it all, there’s an obvious heightened police-vehicle presence. They’re everywhere, which looks very much like a conscious strategy that says, “We’re here; don’t do anything stupid.”

Construction on the MSG Sphere has been suspended. Consequently, it’s not expected that the project will make its 2021 deadline; a new target has not been announced. The Sphere joins the The Drew as the only major projects that have stopped work of their own volition.

City officials have responded to restaurant requests and now allow the sale of alcohol in take-out and delivery orders. Restaurants that have a liquor license, along with those that get a temporary license for this purpose, can sell sealed bottles of beer, wine, and liquor to customers who place an accompanying food order. This doesn’t strike us as being a big deal, as alcohol is easily obtained from the many groceries that remain open, but the option is now there.

Update 3/30 — Day 13 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

We’re rushing this post up because we just put up the online version of the April Las Vegas Advisor newsletter and promised the links below. These are links to two haunting videos that will give you a sense of what it’s like in Vegas these days.

The first is a two-and-a-half-minute video, the last minute of which takes a look at Las Vegas during the shutdown.

The second is an eight-and-a-half-minute ride from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign up the Strip to downtown and partway back.

Update 3/24 — Day 7 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

With everything closed, there’s not a lot to report. Nevada’s governor is holding (remote) press conferences that don’t convey much information beyond the primary message of “don’t gather.” With each presser he tightens the restrictions a little more. There are never any amended timetables for reopening put forth (it’s a 30-day mandate, so current reopening should be on or about April 16), but to be fair, how can anyone provide that information at this point. Continue to monitor “Vegas News” to get the word as soon as it’s released.

The surrealness of a closed Las Vegas continues – the dark Strip at night and eerie emptiness in the tourist corridors is odd to behold. You can see what it looks like from our webcam page, which provides live feeds from the Strip, downtown, and other areas of the city. No one at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign? It’s something to see.

So ponder this. Iftraffic is minimal, why is the Strip still clogged? It’s because roadwork hasbeen ramped up. It makes sense to take the opportunity, but we can’t even get asmall favor out of the mess we’re now enduring.

With regard to food service, the supermarkets continue to normalize in terms of available product. Check the listings in the links provided previously in this blog for take-out/delivery options. To add to those, we asked Eating Las Vegas author John Curtas if any of Las Vegas’ top restaurants were serving. He responded, “Most good restaurants aren’t. Some good ones that are: District One, Japaneiro, China Mama, Weera Thai, and Shang Artisan Noodle.” We confirmed that all are serving, with the exception of District One, which had a kitchen fire that did substantial damage and closed the restaurant (talk about dealing with a double whammy). Another good find is Roma Deli on Spring Mtn. Rd., where you can take out regular menu items as well as excellent Italian deli goods.

Here’s the reality. There are a lot of places open that aren’t getting press. If you want something from a particular restaurant, call them up and see if they pick up the phone. For example, one of the best pizzas in town comes from Brooksy’s Bar & Grill on the west side. We called and they’re open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for curbside pick-up. Make a call and you might be surprised.

Update 3/20 — Day 3 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

Today governor Sisolak took things up a notch by ordering (via a statement on Facebook) that all non-essential businesses in the state close. He’d stipulated the same in his previous press conference, but couched it more as a request. Today he termed it an order and said that non-complying businesses will be subject to penalties. Somewhat forcing Sisolak’s hand were brazenly non-complying businesses that refused to close, including downtown’s Heart Attack Grill, advertising “none of this whimpy ‘take out only’ crap,” and the all-nude strip club Little Darlings, which declared “America is a free country, and strippers will continue to be a part of the fabric of American life.”

As expressed in the preceding post, getting food has turned out to be much easier than anticipated, with many restaurants offering take-out and delivery. There are some differences in the way they distribute take-out, with some specifying “curb service,” which means you call in your order, drive to the restaurant, and call them again when you arrive so they can carry it out to you. At least that’s what they say — we haven’t encountered one place yet that does that. Rather, in most cases you call and order, then walk in and get it. Or even just walk in and wait to take it out. The best way to play is to call ahead and see what they require. Some restaurants do their own delivery, but most work through the delivery services, e.g., Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, etc. We considered putting up a list of restaurants that are cooking, but there are other sources for that information.

https://vegas.eater.com/2020/3/17/21183681/las-vegas-restaurants-coronavirus-delivery-take-out

https://www.reviewjournal.com/entertainment/food/las-vegas-restaurants-offer-takeout-delivery-in-wake-of-shutdown-updated-1985841/

https://vegas.eater.com/2020/3/20/21188350/las-vegas-meal-prep-companies-ready-to-eat-dishes

https://news3lv.com/news/local/list-of-las-vegas-restaurantseateries-offering-delivery

Even all of these together aren’t comprehensive, however. For example, we went for take-out at Weera Thai, as we found it listed as the only open restaurant in the nearby Shanghai Plaza on Spring Mountain Rd., and discovered that every restaurant there, except one, was open for take-out.

One more subject of interest is hotels. With visitors having been kicked out of their accommodations, it’s handy to know where you can get a room in a pinch. We conducted a major call-around and, as of this afternoon, the following were confirmed as accepting guests:

Alexis Park, Artisan, Best Western Plus South Henderson, Candlewood Suites, Country Comfort Inn & Suites, Desert Moon Motel, Desert Paradise Resort by Diamond Resorts, Element Summerlin, Ellis Island, Embassy Suites Convention Center, Extended Stay America Midtown and Flamingo, Fortune Hotel & Suites, Hampton Inn Summerlin, Hampton Inn Tropicana, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacation Club, Hilton Grand Vacation Suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton Airport, Home2 Suites by Hilton, Hostel Cat, Howard Johnson by Wyndham, Hyatt Place Las Vegas at Silverton Village, Jockey Club, LaQuinta Inn & Suites Airport, La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Summerlin Tech, Marriott Grand Chateau, Motel 6 (all locations), Motel 8 Plus, OYO, Polo Towers, Railroad Pass, Renaissance, Residence Inn Airport, Residence Inn Green Valley, Residence Inn Las Vegas South, Rita Suites, Royal Resort, Serene, Shalimar Hotel, Siegal Slots & Suites, Skyline Hotel & Casino, Sunrise Inn Hotel, Thunderbird, TownPlace Suites by Marriott, Travelodge by Wyndham Center Strip, Tru by Hilton Las Vegas Airport, Tuscany, Westin Lake Las Vegas.

Interesting in this group are the casino-related hotels, which are in bold.

Update 3/18 — Day 1 of the Las Vegas Shutdown

Yesterday Nevada governor Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses in Nevada to close for 30 days. Included in the non-essential category are all casinos, bars, restaurants, hotels, health clubs, beauty salons, malls, etc. All gaming machines in the entire state were also turned off. As a result, for the first time ever, Las Vegas is now pretty much closed. Restaurants are allowed to offer delivery and take-out service. Essential businesses—including grocery stores, pharmacies, home stores, medical facilities, transportation services, gas stations, and banks—continue to operate.

As you’d expect, it’s a surreal atmosphere. Lots of visitors had to cut their trip short and head home. The roadways, including I-15 and the Strip, aren’t vacant, but they’re not busy either. The Strip is almost devoid of foot traffic.

Despite the high-level closings and the run on food (and paper products) at the supermarkets, there’s no problem at all finding food and other essentials. The fast-food restaurants are all open via their drive-throughs and many restaurants are open for take-out or delivery. Today we walked into Roma Deli on Spring Mountain Rd. and took out an Italian sub and olive salad. In fact, there are lots of creative offers hatching. For example, prior to closing today, downtown’s Evel Pie gave away pizzas until they were gone. Not that this would be categorized as a good play—shortly after the 11 a.m. starting time, a line of more than 200 snaked around the El Cortez corner (not much space between; so much for social distancing).

Convenience stores are open. Dry-cleaners are open. Walmart and Target are open. The weed stores are open. It’s just the party places where big crowds gather that aren’t.

Note that due to this full shutdown, we’ll no longer be updating the cancelation list below; just about every event of importance has been canceled. We’ll continue to add to this blog every day or two, but to get important information as it breaks, monitor “Vegas News” on the LasVegasAdvisor.com home page.

Update 3/16

Last week we were telling callers that most things were normal in Las Vegas. We’re not saying that anymore. The situation turned dire over the weekend and more bad news is being released on a daily basis.

Locals are dealing with the closing of Clark County schools (beginning today) and the same kind of run on grocery stores that’s likely taking place all over the country. The workforce is being hit with layoffs as the casinos are either pulling back on offerings or closing altogether.

As of this writing, Wynn, Encore, and all MGM Resorts International properties are closing completely this week, along with Vdara and T-Mobile Arena. That’s right, Bellagio, MGM Grand, the Mirage, and others will be completely closed by Tuesday. This includes the hotels, where guests are reportedly being made to check out and find other accommodations. Optimistic timetables have them reopening in two weeks, but that’s not a given.

Shows are closed at most venues. The Fremont Street Experience has suspended all live shows. Bus service on the Strip has been reduced by 50%. The NFL draft that was scheduled for April was canceled today.

We’ve spent a lot of time walking around the city and what’s surprising is how busy the non-casino bars are. Not just busy, but much busier than normal. Perhaps its due to people being laid off with nothing else to do, but with the exception to Chinatown restaurants — where the perceived connection with China, the origin country of the coronavirus, is keeping people away — the bars seem unaffected. But that’s about the only good news.

Bottom line: Las Vegas is closing down bit by bit.

Most casinos are still open and you can gamble on the floor, but the sports books are little ghost towns and even playing in the pit or at the machines is being affected by new “social distancing guidelines.” At table games, a maximum of three players per table are allowed. And at the casinos we’ve checked, every second machine has been disabled.

The shows are closed or closing. Casino restaurants seem destined to follow. Are there still things to do? There will always be things to do, but it’s certainly not the same. And while we never thought we’d be saying this, canceling a trip planned within the next 30 days is something that many should consider.

See the bottom of this blog for a continually updated list of closings and postponements.

FIRST POST

No doubt about it: This is bad and getting worse, both the epidemic of the coronavirus itself and the “infodemic,” to use a term coined by the World Health Organization, of information and misinformation that spreads rapidly through conventional and social media, fueling a panic that poses an equally serious problem for public health.

We’ve been posting news and updates on COVID-19 in our Vegas News feature, which you can find on the home page of LasVegasAdvisor.com. But this rapidly and relentlessly evolving story is having such a dramatic impact on, well, everything — not the least of which is a concentrated corridor that attracts upwards of 43 million visitors per year — that we’re dedicating this blog space to keeping a running record of noteworthy developments as they occur.

Here’s where things stand as of this afternoon.

Three new coronavirus cases in Nevada since yesterday include a New York woman in her 40s who attended the Women in Power Summit between March 5 and 8 at the Mirage, which attracted 1,000 participants.

MGM Resorts is closing the buffets at all its Strip casinos as of this Sunday, March 15. Though it’s a “temporary” measure, no prediction is forthcoming as to when the buffets might be reinstated and the situation is being reevaluated “weekly.” We’ve also heard that Mandalay Bay is shutting down Fleur, Aureole, and Mizuya as of Sunday, while Libertine Social is cutting back its hours to Thursday through Sunday.  

In addition, several events have been postponed or canceled. Cirque du Soleil’s annual fundraiser, One Night for One Drop, is being rescheduled from its original date, March 27. Raiding the Rock Vault, a production show at the Rio, has gone to a three-performance-a-week schedule due to “the sudden drop of Las Vegas visitors.” And the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference in April has been canceled, along with a number of smaller business events in Las Vegas.

However, the huge Con/Expo-Con/Agg convention, with 130,000 attendees, has gone on without incident (so far) this week; it ends Saturday. Likewise, most conventions scheduled for the next month or two, including the big ASD Market Week show in two weeks, the NFL draft in April, and the World Series of Poker in a little more than two months, are going on as planned, at least as of now.

Many casinos, following the lead of the Wynn, have installed hand-sanitizer stations; the strip club Little Darlings is sponsoring a promotion, giving away 50,000 free bottles of hand sanitizer while supplies last this month. In addition, numerous casinos are undergoing “deep cleanings and disinfecting of flat surfaces and high-touchpoint areas.” Thus far, though, none has implemented the extraordinary precaution of taking the physical temperatures of guests who look ill that Encore Boston Harbor is reportedly undertaking (discreetly and with non-contact digital thermometers).

Early visitation and casino revenue numbers for 2020 have been strong, but they were reported before the crisis hit. To say that industry observers are pessimistic about the next report is an understatement at best. Empirically, we can attest that visitors, indeed, are canceling their trips.

Of course, the flip side is the likelihood of the appearance of better deals, which are already materializing in air travel and figure to show up in the way of lower room rates and juicier casino promotions.

We’ll post developments on this page as they unfold, including an ongoing list of event cancellations, of which there will be many.

Cancellations and Postponements due to coronavirus as of 3:30 p.m Monday March 16:

  • Kelly Clarkson is postponing her residency at Planet Hollywood until July 29.
  • Robbie Williams has rescheduled his March 24-April 4 performances at the Encore until July 15.
  • Clark County School District has closed all classes K-12 until April 6.
  • Catholic Diocese schools in Las Vegas have canceled athletics and travel.
  • UNLV is transitioning to online-only instruction.
  • MGM Resorts is temporarily suspending casino and hotel operations on March 17 until further notice. The MGM Vegas properties will not be taking any reservations for future guests’ arrivals prior to May 1.
  • Wynn and Encore properties will be closing temporarily on March 17 at 6 p.m. The properties are expected to close for 2 weeks, after which they will re-evaluate the situation.
  • At the Cosmopolitan, the Red Plate, Wicked Spoon Buffet, Rose. Rabbit. Lie, Overlook Grill, and Va Bene dining venues will be temporarily closed. Opium has also taken a temporary hiatus. 
  • Hakkassan’s entertainment venues in Las Vegas are closed until further notice.
  • Drai’s Beachclub Nightclub and After Hours have closed until further notice.
  • Treasure Island has closed its Corner Market Buffet.
  • Sand Dollar Lounge closes March 16 for one week.
  • The Bunkhouse Saloon downtown is temporarily closing.
  • Tao Nightclub at the Venetian closes temporarily. 
  • Caesars Entertainment has suspended operations at its spas, fitness centers, restaurants and has canceled all ticketed live performances through the end of March.
  • Caesars Entertainment will suspend operations of buffets company-wide through April 9
  • Giada has closed Giada at The Cromwell and Pronto by Giada at Caesars Palace until further notice.
  • Atomic Saloon Show at the Venetian has closed temporarily.
  • All Cirque du Soleil shows have been temporarily suspended.
  • The Terry Bradshaw Show residency at the Luxor has been postponed.
  • Fremont Street Experience is pulling all live entertainment from its stages effective immediately.
  • David Copperfield has suspended his show.
  • Headliner Penn & Teller are going dark.
  • Jonas Brothers at Park MGM have canceled their upcoming residency.
  • April’s Kizuna Japanese Festival, scheduled for April at the Sammy Davis, Jr., Festival Plaza at Lorenzi Park is canceled.
  • Monster Jam, March 21-22, has been postponed. 
  • The Academy of Music Awards on April 15 has been postponed and will be rescheduled to air on CBS in September.
  • Race For Hope has been postponed.
  • FEI World Cup 2020 has been canceled.
  • Atmosphere 2020, March 22-27, has been canceled.
  • Las Vegas Licensing Expo has been rescheduled for Aug 11-13.
  • Las Vegas Polo Classic, April 18-19, has been rescheduled to Aug. 15-16.
  • Las Vegas Lights says USL Championship is suspending for 30 days.
  • NHL pauses season with no Vegas Golden Knight practices or games.
  • City National Arena is postponing all youth leagues and programming.
  • Special Olympics Nevada is canceling all upcoming competitions, practices, and Healthy Athletics events through March 31.
  • Las Vegas Aviators minor league baseball is postponed for now.
  • Lee Canyon has suspended operations through March 22.
  • Springs Preserve is closed until further notice.
  • Discovery Children’s Museum is closing March 16 through April 13.
  • Mob Museum is closed until further notice.
  • Library District branches are closed until further notice; online resources are available.
  • Nevada’s seven state museums are closing until the end of the month.
  • Clark County District Court will suspend jury trials for the next 30 days.
  • Starbucks is to-go only.
  • YMCA  Southern Nevada Branches are closed until further notice.
  • Clark County Parks and Recreation are closed until further notice.
  • RTC is experiencing service delays, due to cutbacks in the bus schedules.
  • Airlines: check for delays and cancellations.
  • DMV is asking customers to use online services, kiosks, and mail or fax whenever possible.
  • The Mormon Church is suspending all church gatherings worldwide.

Cancellations and Postponements due to coronavirus as of 3:30 p.m Friday March 13:

  • The Nightclub & Bar Show planned for March 30-April 2 has been rescheduled to June 22-24.
  • The International Pizza Expo has postponed its March 31-April 2 show at the Convention Center to June 26-28.
  • NCAA has canceled March Madness.
  • All Nine Jonas Brothers shows originally scheduled for next month at Park MGM have been canceled.
  • These closures have been announced for in and around the Henderson Pavilion, on Water Street and the Henderson Events Plaza: St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival, March 13-15; Vintage Market and Craft Sale, March 14; Dana Point Festival of Whales, March 14; March On, March 24; Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, March 26-April 4; Blue Ribbon Commission Leadership Day, April 1; Henderson BluesFest, April 11; Vintage Market and Craft Sale, April 11; Industrial Days, April 17-18
  • Mirage Theater closures: Boyz II Men, March 13-14, Aces of Comedy with Bill Maher, March 13-14, Matt Goss, March 15
  • Wynn Resorts is canceling all entertainment gatherings beginning this weekend. This includes Wynn’s buffets, nightclubs, and theaters. Wynn will also be screening temperatures using non-invasive thermal scanners at all entrances.
  • The Clark County School District is suspending all sports, extracurriculars, assemblies, practices, and events indefinitely. As of now, there are no school closures and Safekey will continue to operate as normal.
  • The World Game Protection Conference, supposed to take place at the Tropicana, has been rescheduled for October 5-8, the same week as the Global Gaming Expo. 
  • The festival Tacos & Tamales at Desert Breeze Park on March 28 has been canceled.
  • Jazz in The Park at the Clark County Amphitheater has canceled shows on May 9, 16, 23, and 30, and June 6. 
  • The 2020 Masters at Augusta National is currently postponed; no new dates have been announced.
  • Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bullring scheduled for March 14 has been postponed to July 25.
  • The Nevada Democratic Party county conventions scheduled for April 18 have been canceled.
  • The city of North Las Vegas has canceled all large, city-run public events; recreation facilities and libraries will remain open.
  • The city of Las Vegas has suspended all events until further notice.
  • Dance Gavin Dance Party at Brooklyn Bowl on March 13 has been postponed, Galactic on March 25 has been canceled, and Bad Religion & Alkaline Trio on March 27 has been postponed.
  • Il Volo at the Palms, scheduled for March 15, has been canceled.
  • Diana Ross performances scheduled for April 8, 10, 11, 15, 17, and 18 at Wynn Las Vegas have been postponed and Lionel Ritchie, scheduled for March 13 & 14, has been postponed. New performance dates will be announced soon.
  • Billy Gardell at Treasure Island, scheduled for March 27, has been postponed.
  • Black Mountain’s Believer Festival, scheduled for April 29-May 2, has been canceled. 
  • Stated on their webpage: “Though we may have to isolate for our health, we know as keenly as ever how intricately we are connected. Deepening those connections, pursuing them as we can–that’s health, too.”
  • The Alexander Dawson School in the west valley announced that it is closing its campus beginning Monday, March 16.                                                                                
  • The Meadows School is canceling classes following a previously planned closure on Wednesday, March 18, for at least one and a half weeks.
  • Tivoli Village has canceled its Kid’s Community Day event that was set to take place on March 14.
  • ASD Market Week announced that it is canceling this month’s show, March 22-25, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
  • The Downtown Las Vegas Events Center has canceled all events through March and April. This includes:
  • Liquid Stranger, March 14
  • Tchami, March 27
  • Great Vegas Festival of Beer, Apri; 3-4
  • Reggae Rise Up, April 18-19
  • LSU Crawfish Boil and Food Festival, April 25
  • The Smith Center is suspending all performances through March 31, effective Sunday at 10 p.m.
  • Wet Republic has shut down its dayclub at the MGM Grand as an employee is being tested for coronavirus. All MGM Resorts’ nightclubs and dayclubs have closed temporarily.

Cancellations and Postponements due to coronavirus as of 12:30 p.m Thursday March 12:

  • Ween “March Mitzvah” weekend scheduled to take place on March 19-22 has been rescheduled to take place on October 2-4. 
  • Lit & Marcy Playground scheduled to perform at the Cannery on March 28 has been rescheduled to take place on Sept 26.
  • The Academy of Country Music Awards show will go on as scheduled at the MGM Garden Arena, with ACM entertainer of the year, Keith Urban performing. The show will air live on CBS. 
  • Room rates for the NFL Draft are plummeting. The New Year’s Eve-like prices for the three-day event were approaching four figures per night; now they’re returning to Earth, in some cases getting slashed by 70% and 80%.
  • MGM Resorts is closing seven buffets on Sunday, March 15: Aria – The Buffet, Bellagio – The Buffet at Bellagio, Excalibur – Excalibur Buffet, Luxor – The Buffet at Luxor, Mandalay Bay – Bayside Buffet, MGM Grand – MGM Grand Buffet, Mirage – Cravings
  • Mandalay Bay is shutting down Fleur, Aureole, and Mizuya as of Sunday, while Libertine Social is cutting back its hours to Thursday through Sunday.  
  • Cirque du Soleil’s annual fundraiser, One Night for One Drop, is being rescheduled from its original date, March 27; no new date has been announced.
  • Raiding the Rock Vault, at the Rio, has gone to a three-performance-a-week schedule.
  • The National Association of Broadcasters conference in April has been canceled.
  • Viva Las Vegas 23 Rockabilly Weekend has suspended ticket sales until further notice.
  • The Zac Brown Band, scheduled to perform March 27 at T-Mobile Arena, has been postponed. 
  • President Trump has canceled his trip to Las Vegas. He was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser, then make a speech at the Venetian. 
  • The NBA and NHL have suspended all games until further notice.
  • CinemaCon, the annual gathering of theater owners and Hollywood studios, scheduled for March 30-April 2, has been canceled.
  • IWCE, Su8iteWorld20, 2020 Veterans Stand Down, Channel Partners Conference & Expo, and ISC West have all been postponed.
  • NXT Global Summit was canceled.
  • Aruba Networks has canceled its upcoming conference on March 23-27. It will take place via video streaming.
  • Software company Adobe has canceled its upcoming Adobe Summit at the Venetian. It will now be held online.
  • Altitude Intimates tradeshow scheduled for March 17-19 has been canceled.
  • Atlassian Summit on March 31 has been canceled.
  • Google has canceled a major internal sales and marketing event that was set to take place this month.
  • UNLV is preparing to transition to online instruction no later than April 3. 
  • UNLV and UNR sporting events will take place without the presence of spectators until further notice.
  • The Las Vegas Pro Classic is being moved from April 18-19 to July 16-18.
  • The Clark County School District has canceled all out-of-state and international student travel effective immediately and until further notice.
  • Flights between Las Vegas and South Korea have been suspended until further notice.
  • The Nevada Department of Corrections is temporarily suspending the visitation of institutions in the interest of public safety.

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