Vegas Goes Dark – The Beginning of the End…or a New Beginning?


The day we never could have imagined is upon us. Can ‘Sin City’ rise from the ashes and learn from its mistakes?

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This evening, Governor Steve Sisolak shut down the City of Las Vegas, along with the rest of the state, for a minimum of thirty days. In order to slow the rampant spread of COVID-19 aka “Corona Virus”, all non-essential businesses have been ordered to shutter. This includes bars, hotels, casinos, indoor-dining restaurants, gyms, spas, salons, movie theaters, shows, most stores, parks, recreational attractions and much more.

                                Caesars Palace Forum Shops and Bellagio….both empty…

Thousands upon thousands of people are currently out of work (myself included). Very few are receiving compensation from their employers during this dark period, leaving homes and families at risk for multiple hardships. Can a town that’s already endured major drops in tourism due to 9/11, 2008’s economic collapse and the 10/1/17 massacre rebound from yet another cataclysm?

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                  The party is over on Fremont Street…at least for the time being…

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             An insider source requesting anonymity sent these astonishing photos…

Will the stuffed suits in powerful boardrooms learn from their own mistakes…ones that were already dragging our tourist industry downward? What can be done to lure people back…and will we see a return to the perception of Las Vegas as a value destination? One can only hope.

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                  A darkened Wynn/Encore offers hope to the remaining few passers-by…

The days leading up to the Governor’s declaration were filled with unbearable tension. Grocery store shelves were plundered as major Strip productions shuttered one by one. Next came the closing of buffets and restaurants, then entire hotels and casinos.  Working parents suddenly had to figure out what to do with their children when all schools closed down this week.

                                 Town Square near McCarran Airport is a ghost town…

As in other cities around the world, mundane activities like getting a haircut or meeting friends for lunch are no longer part of our lives. Everything has changed in just a matter of days. Once it became clear that this was our new normal, a friend and I entered “survival mode”. I was just laid off from two regular writing gigs (supposedly temporarily, but who knows?) and he needed a place to live, so now I have someone to share expenses with…and lean on at the same time.

Having resided for 14 years in hurricane-prone South Florida, this writer was used to disaster preparation as a routine activity. Stock the pantry, refill prescriptions, get extra pet food and litter, withdraw cash from the ATM, gas up the vehicles and charge everything that uses a battery. Then comes more drastic steps like buying plywood to board up the windows, checking/replacing fire extinguishers and having weapons on hand in case violence ensues.

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All of this may sound drastic or even dramatic, but let’s face it…if people trample each other for a TV on Black Friday, what will they do when food and supplies run out? The answer isn’t an easy one and becomes especially scary if you consider the possibility that basic utilities could eventually get cut off. But if anarchy raises its ugly head, this former Boy Scout will be ready.

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Despite the seriousness of the situation, many have been working hard to maintain hope…and a sense of humor. Facebook has been a great outlet for people to offer assistance, share their talents and keep each others’ spirits high. Cirque du Soleil performer Alberto Del Campo (read about him HERE) is hosting free online pole fitness classes.

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           Sing along with Mak and the Cheese – You Can’t Spell ‘Virus’ Without ‘Us’

Talented spouses MaKenzie Fly (Sex Tips) and Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show) have created “Mak and The Cheese” a Facebook page featuring witty songs and skits inspired by the “virus hiatus.” And yours truly hosted a “Sexy Apocalypse Party” at Palms Place, where shirts were optional (this is Sin City, after all).

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As we locals ride out the long month ahead in our own unique ways, it’s clear that we’ll come out on the other side as very changed people. Thousands will undoubtedly remain unemployed. Homes will be lost and crime rates will rise. Many businesses will most certainly close for good.

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                    The Bronx Wanderers toast their final performance…for now…

Entertainment offerings may no longer be the flashy, expensive productions (like Cirque du Soleil’s R.U.N) that have recently racked up millions in losses. Virgin Hotel (the former Hard Rock) and Allegiant Stadium completion dates will be pushed back. And you can forget about Resorts World and Fontainebleu/The Drew opening any time soon….yet again.

Steve Sisolak

The Governor’s announcement was like licking the stamp on a death notice that was waiting to be mailed. Las Vegas has been struggling for quite some time, mostly due to poor decisions that have turned an inexpensive, beloved retreat into a tourist-gouging cesspool of greed. The bigger the city has grown, the less forward-thinking it has become. What we as citizens saw and heard tonight will forever be embedded in our minds. But can we say the same about the big-company execs who are directing the city’s future?

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After the news conference, my new roomie and I gathered our wits and headed to the Strip to absorb the shocking reality of it all. What we witnessed were empty sidewalks, abandoned massive resorts, and shuttered storefronts. The world-famous Bellagio Fountains were dark, as was the Mirage volcano and the boardwalk along Treasure Island. Gone were the endless lines of taxis waiting to pick up tourists.

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Overhead, pedestrian walkways were void of people, and the outdoor escalators at each major intersection went silently up and down with nary a soul to ride them. Amusingly, they all seemed to be working for a change, now that there was nobody to use them. If you were looking for the company of others, all you had to do was head for the nearest dispensary, where people encircled the buildings, hoping to get their stash before mandatory shutdowns went into effect.

                  Lines at marijuana dispensaries stretched around the block…

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         “Visit Las Vegas” is airing nationwide TV promising a bigger, better Vegas…

Now that we’ve witnessed that fall of Las Vegas, where do we go from here? As I said, it will most likely be a very different place…but will it be better? Maybe the “new normal” will yield smaller-scale ideas, where charming lounge-style acts push multi-million-dollar headliner residencies out of the way.

                         Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport 3/18/20, 10am

Perhaps we’ll see a resurgence in gaming, bolstered by better odds than visitors can get at their local casinos. And if we’re lucky, quality service by smiling human beings will shove out main offender MGM Resort‘s move toward automation and self-service. If I’m paying $50 for a buffet, is it too much to ask for an actual person to refill my iced tea?

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                                                    Found on my Facebook feed…

What Las Vegas REALLY needs is to learn a hard, definitive lesson from this punch to the stomach. Hotels must send parking charges out into the desert, never to return. People are sick of looking at their restaurant/bar tab and finding a laundry list of bogus service charges and taxes added onto their already-expensive bill. And when a hotel advertisement says “Stay here for $___”, that better be the actual rate. We’re done with $45 resort fees. Stop it…right now!

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There are only so many times that a city built on tourism can bounce back from major disasters. Las Vegas has survived at least three of them in the past two decades. If the corporations that run this city don’t push the “restart” button and bring back what made this city successful for decades, then maybe it doesn’t deserve to recover at all. Right now, the only thing we all share is hope for a better tomorrow.

 

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Click HERE to read this article’s companion piece: “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

Photos: Sam Novak, Bobby Watson, Kevin Janison, Marianne LeMoine Phoenix, Greg C., Bill Chenowith, Vin A., Andrew Hill. Special thanks to Richard Lindblom. Banner photo from the film RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION 

Author: Sam Novak

Fitness buff, outspoken critic/blogger. Enjoys writing about shows, restaurants, events and performers in Las Vegas. Staff writer for BestOfVegas.com. Former contributing editor for VegasChatter and former deputy editor for VegasBright...

51 thoughts on “Vegas Goes Dark – The Beginning of the End…or a New Beginning?”

  1. This article cuts to the bone!! The city may not recover. It was founded on VALUE not what it has become… So many people i know say we won’t be returning… Buffets were 10.00 the amazing brunch at ballys in the day was 50.00…. Now.. Birthday cake amd fried chicken biffets are 99.00. Its so sad! Hopefully the idiots in the casinos making these decisions are removed. Hopefully the media that claims to ELEVATE our city actually does…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. same here..my wife and I started going to vegas in 1988. boy has it changed ..too many hidden fees..nothing clear on price till it’s too late…we go every December but the last five years. it’s not the same

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      1. Couldnt agree more. Ive lived here for 25 years and ive become sinister when i watch the influx of partisan decisions only to increase the wealth of the already excessively wealthy people at the top . I am saddened by the latge number of people who this will devastate and it will hardly be noticed by the wealthy. Greed is sickening as it goes on all atound us every day, and for my part i believe that eventually those things get dealt with. What i hope and believe is that some great men will step forward now and help not only in deed but further be an influence over some of the others mentioned above Cataclysmic events are unfortunate but they also provide opportunity for positive change going forward.

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      2. I have no idea if Vegas is benefitting from marijuana tourism or not, but I would think not. There was already enough to do in Vegas and there are plenty of other places to get weed, legally or illegally. I’ve been to Vegas 50 times, but the last couple of times I noticed that you can’t walk 20 feet without smelling weed everywhere. Not only that, but the groups of weed-smokers congregating in the middle of the sidewalks and getting in people’s way are mostly the kind of unsavory characters that you’d prefer not to have to deal with when you’re on vacation.

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      1. 💯 agree.. greed and if things went back .. they would make the money n people could afford to eat, play, have their enjoyment! Sad that greed gets in the way!

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      1. You’d need to contact the site where you booked for that answer. My recommendation would be to cancel now, as chances are when it reopens, you’ll get one heck of a deal to come back. (I hope so, at least).

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      2. I was booked for April 12th, shows, car rental, hotel and frontier emailed me and said no need to contact them , refunds will happen in next 7-10 days

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  2. So sad few days ago friend if my son’s went up there to live with a friend and get a job now what is she going to do with Coronsvirus going allaround the world. Worried about her now hope things turn around for her Bless her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So true for everything in this article. Vegas seems to be a one and done for most visitors. I know for myself and husband, we could go on a 2 week international trip for the amount we spend in Vegas for a 4 day stay (outside of our gambling).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Spot on! What our city needs is a return to the concept that in Las Vegas no matter where you came from you could be anyone when you got here (within legal reason). The past that many seem to point to when they say they miss old Vegas is one where you could come into town with a nice outfit and see shows that weren’t anywhere else, gamble a little and have a decent chance to win big, and were taken care of by staff who loved their jobs because their casino valued their staff. Was it really like that everywhere? Probably not but that illusion is what we used to be able to provide. There is an opportunity to get back to our roots here and I really hope someone with the right title can realize that. Thanks for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The old Las Vegas will never return. Pre 1980 they had to beg people to come out to the middle of nowhere. They did it by giving you budget lodging, great food offers. Then if you took a chance at the casino, they extended free drinks and cigarettes to you… and would offer you “Comps” Meals, shows, & rooms. Slowly over 25 – 40 years people started coming more and more. The Convention and Visitors Authority pumped advertising dollars into targeted markets. Came up with the best ever advertising slogan. “What Happens Here Stays Here”. Soon “Vegas Baby” was known by every adult in North America and beyond. Then everyone lined up to come here ….once, twice or more a year. Then like I learned in “Business 101”. It became a simple game of “Supply & Demand”. People kept coming and occupancy was 95% or higher across the City. So they raised prices slowly and the people kept coming and rooms were selling out. They raised prices, build more resorts and they kept on coming. Then they added Convention space. Every major sector of they market brought there annual Conventions here. Why you ask? The attendance at these conventions soared when they held them in Las Vegas. High End Shopping 🛍 followed right in step. Major Resorts expanded there outdoor pool areas. The Resorts then added large nightclubs and people would lined up for an hour just to get in. Resort Executives and marketing departments, realized let’s extend the Nightclub experience to separate day pools with Dance music and DJ’s. Back inside, the Resorts were adding world class restaurants and the people loved it. During this whole 20 year period Hotel Room occupancy was still selling out. The world now was looking at Las Vegas as a place to vacation. The rest is history. This virus will eventually pass even if it takes 18 months. Eventually scientists are confident in a vaccine. A guess what? The world will be thirsty to get back to the Las Vegas they love. No matter how much it costs! The thought of the Old Las Vegas ever coming back will not happen because the numbers of visitors continues to grow. You just have to follow the number of visitors going through McCarren Airport. This virus is the only thing that will be able to slow the visitor count down. Now it’s a major city, with NHL and NFL teams. If “the people” stop coming is the only way things will ever change. The Vegas bargain is gone. The Corporations have replaced the mobsters of years gone by. Corporations simply had deeper pockets. I miss the old Las Vegas myself, but it stays alive in the great memories I had.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I took the point of the article to be, the people *will* stop coming; a vaccination won’t be ready for 12-14 months best estimate. Even in the best case scenario of everything starting to re-open again in 12 weeks.. supply chains are disrupted, demand will be depressed b/c people all over the world have lost their incomes and their nerve to be in crowds. Amid the dearth of crowds, will there be a return to the “old” Vegas?

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  5. I will still come back to Vegas and I believe it will survive but maybe this will wake them up and take away the parking fees. That really really upset me. That’s just greed. The buffers have gotten so expensive and most of the restaurants. It’s just hurting their business. I’m not a gambler so I come for the entertainment. Now that has gotten so ridiculously expensive. The average person could not afford these headliner shows. Change is needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Once upon a time the mob ran vegas and it was great. Enter the government, over regulation, and corporations looking for peak profits. Taking away any less than wholesome activity as well. Trying to build a family friendly Vegas and hook tomorrows consumers today in the form of children. Screw that give me cocaine, women hustling men, and men being men. Prime steak for 8.99, and happy endings at the massage parlors at the flamingo. Sin city? Lmao more like has been city.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As a future Vegas valley resident, I am positive the city will bounce back. Just like L.A., San Diego, New York, Albuquerque, etc., it will take time, but it will happen. I do hope things change for the better. We vacation in Vegas at least 3-4 times a year. There’s absolutely no place we’d rather be. Nothing will keep us from going back, either. As soon as the “limited socailizing” ends, we will be back. We will continue to visit until we move there. My husband and I have lived in New Mexico our whole lives, but we discovered our true home is Nevada.

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  8. I lived in Vegas for 17 years. Went there in 92. Watched it change. In a bad way. It lost all its charm, catering to the rich young druggy, partygoers. Casinos were robbed in broad daylight. Violence became common place. Gangs scoured the town. Schools were overcrowded because there was no foresight. The kids paid the price. It lost its class.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There is a lot of hard truths in this article. Well written and well intended. It’s about time people start calling our city out for the “value” it’s lost. The town is resilient, as we’ve seen time and again. One can only hope the right people read this. Thanks for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think the entire country is going to get a huge wake up call with this. Businesses will actually have to start working to impress customers again instead of getting away with subpar services and products. Recessions have a way of resetting things that way. People are lot more careful of where they spend there money.

    As far as Vegas goes, yeah…..just got back almost 3 weeks ago and it was awful. Glad I made it before this all happened but Hospitality sucked. Couldnt agree with you more about how the big corps have ruined it. Used to be a great value to go to Vegas but not anymore. Hope to see it recover though for the sake of all the people it supports and for the sake of how much history is invested in the town. Good luck to you and your roommate.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The corporations have run this town into the ground. the CEO of MGM dumps 22 million in stock in late Feb. when it is at 30+ a share. Then this happens and it goes down to less than 10. then 16 execs from MGM buy a whole bunch of that stock back at rock bottom prices. You don’t think there was some collusion and planning for this. Resorts fees, high room taxes to build stadiums for multi-billion dollar teams, parking fees, 8 dollar bottles of water. Their greed is incomparable except for Wall Street. They all need the boot and some fresh people with fresh minds and ideas need to come in to turn this town around. They need to take better care of the employees and they in turn will be taking better care of the guests which will create a much better environment in the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I came here expecting a chance to perform where the big boys performed. But Vegas changed sorry ass djs play music, live band and/or live performers are suffering to stay a float! If you do play the pay is that of a small town bar in the back woods of Ga! I was thinking this was where the big boys play and the pay would have you living the lust life! But the greedy casino owners only think about themselves, leaving the poor yes poor musician barely make ends meet with the pay! A 5 piece band should be able to walk out that night with the joy of making at least $1500! The casino makes that within 15 minutes of opening! They have budgeted that much in I know if not their some stupid MFs! PAY TO HAVE THE DAMN LIVE MUSIC COMPENSATED PROPERLY !!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I went for my very first time in life in April 2019 and had a blast but it was extremely expensive. However, I can agree with the expensive parking and resort fees and the food!( buffets) i was in shock while I was making reservations! I’m not saying I won’t go back but hopefully prices and extra greed fees will be at a rate that we can afford to have an amazing good time!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your comments are spot on. We just spent three days in Las Vegas after not visiting for about eight years. Everything was a rip off, from the four dollar cups of coffee to the five dollar muffins. Also everywhere you go, nothing but annoying merchants begging and hassling to get you into their stores to buy overpriced rip-off items. To top it off, like you said, we were hit with a $150 tax on our way out. My wife and I both agreed we are done with Vegas. Whatever happens to them is their own fault and they deserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Visited in Feb and was totally amazed by the Greed, also loved the canned response about complaining about getting charged 4 days extra parking when I didn’t even have a car then. “Thanks you for staying at Caesars, we hope to serve you again”.

    Don’t even get me started in the auto charging mini bar crap that housekeeping tend to knock over on when they’re in your room, so you get charged $14 for chocolate chip cookies (wonder how old those must be)

    8 days in the casino, never once were we asked if we wanted a drink while playing the slots.

    If there’s a next time Air B&B, the greedy casinos can stuff it. Gonna miss Fremont St.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sad to say the only thing that could bring the old Vegas back would be the mob. Old school gangsters with respect and pride and the do what you want attitude … like the mobsters of time past Vegas is also gone

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’ve been to Vegas 3 times but that was a long time back. The last time, I couldn’t believe how expensive it had gotten. Great article by a really good author. Hope Vegas comes back strong with lessons learned.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My parents live in Vegas, over in South Shores. They moved there 5 years ago to be closer to my cousins. I have watched the city change over this time. Not having to stay in the hotels is awesome and we found other things to do that are fun and do not involve going anywhere near the strip.
    I have had friends go and tell me that the hotel they are staying at is way overpriced and in many cases not up to standards. This is the time that Vegas can take the time to clean up the Strip. I know it will go back to nasty once visitors return but maybe being clean, visitors will be more conscience of their actions!
    Stay safe all!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Have been going for several years. My first time was in 1965 when returning from Japan, unbelievable, what a great time. There were 5 of us and we were treated like kings, such respect shown for the man in uniform!
    Moving forward to 1998, what a difference the strip was developed which seemed to be just starting in the mid 60’s, so much more to see and do but it all came with a price attached and over the years those prices have gone off the rails.
    As far as service is concerned there is definitely a lack of it and the front offices could care less.
    I will return because I so enjoy the games of chance, but let’s free up some parking, get more cocktail servers with smiles on their faces and reduce or eliminate the so called resort fee and I believe that they will get back what was lost and gain more than they can ever imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Living in Vegas since 1998 have seen many changes and as others have said not all good… with so many out of work here and across the country Vegas will have to do MORE to get people back and to get locals back to the strip..used to go all the time, but once parking was charged that did it! Going down to see the Belligo gardens or going to the forum shops to shops , let alone to have a fabulous meal..why? Why would I want to add even more $$ onto an already pricey evening…Not to mention what happens to parking prices if there is an event at the t-Mobil ..the surrounding hotel triple the prices…Yes I believe Vegas will come back but with effort and love for your neighbor who has been suffering

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Man Alive, Great Article And Spot On!! The days of $1.99 steaks and .99 cent shrimp cocktails are certainly missed by so many…and this is what you get when the greedy capitalist take over…how nice it would be for all the consumers and workers to have the mob back!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Very well said Sam! I have traveled to Las Vegas many times since the late 90’s. It was a place to go and leave your life behind for a few days, no kids, no boss NO RESPONSIBILITIES! The last time I was there it was July 4th 2018, we had flew in and rented a car to go north to Battle Mountain to visit our son. We decided to stay 1 one night and just have some fun but to our dismay we could barely walk to the fountains from the Tropicana, so many people with small kids and strollers and there is no such thing as walking down the strip, cross here go up there cross back down. We were exhausted after our attempt. I was disappointed when they turned Fremont Street into a side show, we used to feel safe and no worries about transportation with having nightlife on a small street. Why was Disney World built? isn’t that where you would take your family? needless to say, Vegas was not appealing to us anymore. If we needed to get a gambling fix in we just stayed right here and went to the local casinos. I miss my touchdowns in your fun city, I can count 20 times landing at Mc Carren. I pray for your families and the people who have lost everything. Please when Vegas returns remember the Old School Vegas!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. My family came to Vegas in 1972, so I was raised here, I raised my children here. If the mob was still running this city people would not be worried about not being able to take care of their families, we were always taken care of no matter what the situation. Corporate America has ruined my beloved city. I apologize to all of the previous comments for the lack of hospitality, the price gouging and how classless Las Vegas has become, it is truly disappointing. This was a wonderful place to grow up in, you always felt safe and could be proud but the greed of the so called leadership has taken all of that away. If there are any cocktail waitresses reading this take this advice from a former Strip waitress. Put your make up on, do your hair, have some class and smile!!!! Your not a model you are a server!! Let’s class Vegas back up so we can once again have the world’s best hospitality and quit being greedy!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Vegas is simply showing us what greed can do to a place and the people who live and visit there. We are in a massive reset. Nothing is going to be the same. EVER. We now have serious down time to sit, look deep into our hearts and decide how we as humans ,on this planet, want to proceed. Let’s return ourselves to the values our grandparents cherished and lived with in their daily lives. Corporate greed has gotten into all the systems: Schools. Medicine. Politics. Let’s look into our heart, forgive ourselves and forgive others. And then pick ourselves up (and the neighbor next to us) and rebuild.

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