Vegas is back, but it may not be as safe as visitors might like during these trying times.
Las Vegas has reopened it's one of the most attractive recreational spots, Sin City after more than two months of shutdown due the pandemic caused by novel coronavirus.
The good news are hotels and attractions were far busier than expected, prompting many local resort companies to accelerate plans to open more of their properties over the coming weeks, reports CNN.
But the matter of tension is, visitors are not maintaining social distancing rules properly, — especially two precautions that local and federal public health officials have encouraged in order to slow the spread of Covid-19 through the summer.
Put simply, Vegas is back, but it may not be as safe as visitors might like during these trying times.
"Vegas is all about our guests being carefree, but in the initial days of reopening, it feels like there may be too much 'free' and too little 'care,'" said Scott Roeben, owner of VitalVegas.com, a travel blog. "People aren't being reckless; they just aren't as paranoid as I'd expected."
Before unpacking how seriously Las Vegas visitors were taking the pandemic, let's focus on the most important issue: There were people. Lots of them.
Considering that Covid-19 cases are climbing in roughly half the 50 states, local tourism officials and casino executives weren't sure how much interest a newly reopened Las Vegas would generate during "reopening" weekend.
They got their answer almost immediately — Sin City reopened at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, June 4, and all over town, destinations were packed.
The vibe on casino floors was electric — at Venetian Las Vegas, gamblers cheered as they raced through the doors. At Caesars Palace, actors dressed as Caesar and Cleopatra donned face masks and joined forces with Wayne Newton (they call him Mr. Las Vegas around the Vegas Valley) to welcome back guests.
Downtown, under the video canopy of the pedestrian-mall known as Fremont Street Experience, visitors posed for selfies with bartenders wearing bikini tops and giant plastic face shields.
Bob Finch, COO of Station Casinos, which opened six of its 10 resorts in Las Vegas this weekend, said he was "incredibly pleased with the positive response and turnout," and noted that guests had "taken to social media and let us know they are excited to return and are impressed with the safety protocols we've rolled out."
Derek Stevens, owner of The D Las Vegas, Golden Gate Casino, and the under-construction Circa Las Vegas, agreed. Stevens instructed staff members to pour glasses of sparkling wine for every hotel guest at check-in, and he greeted guests personally.
"We wanted to make sure we welcomed everybody back and got them off to a good start," said Stevens, who last week sponsored a promotion through which he gave away 2,000 one-way airplane tickets to Las Vegas from 33 cities around the country.
"By the time they hit the casino, everybody was in a great mood."
Those who run local attractions were also surprised by the demand.
Noel Bowman, owner of ICEBAR at The LINQ Promenade, said he and his team planned on closing at 10 p.m. that first night but stayed open until 2 a.m. to accommodate the crowd of guests.
"We were unexpectedly slammed with heavy traffic and guests ready to spend money," said Bowman, whose attractions essentially are bars made of ice. Bowman added that despite protests rejecting institutionalized racism, "our crowd was as diverse as can be and everyone was treating each other with kindness and respect."
Rod Taylor, vice president of Lake Mead/Mohave Adventures, said crowds also came to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, about 30 minutes southeast of McCarran International Airport. Taylor's company operates several marinas with boat rentals.
He said this weekend was his busiest of the year.
"We haven't seen demand at these levels since before the last recession," he said, harkening all the way back to 2008.
Restaurateurs reported similar data. Brian Howard, chef and owner of Sparrow + Wolf, a global cuisine restaurant in Chinatown, said his eatery has been sold out since the gates opened back up on Thursday, and noted that despite rules that limit the place to 50 percent of normal capacity, the energy and life of the busy room are coming back quickly.
"It's a great feeling to see the guests singing to the songs of the playlists, laughing and enjoying each other again," he said. "You get the sense that everyone is ready to celebrate being out again."