‘Sin City’ Re-opens June 4th – Will You Step Through The Magic Curtain?


Hotel-casinos unveil post-COVID dates and plans…

Well, you’ve stuck with us through the rough times. Now will be you ready to return? That’s the question that all of us in Las Vegas are asking. Governor Steve Sisolak has given approval for casino hotels to return on June 4th, and the floodgate of information is open!

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We’re snapping off the padlocks and sweeping the red carpet to welcome Vegas lovers back to the Strip, Downtown and surrounding areas. The changes will be many, and ramping up will be gradual. For now, only three MGM Resorts properties will be opening on June 4th. But that’s okay, as this will be a litmus test to gauge customer demand and determine a timeline for moving forward.

Here’s the official MGM Resorts announcement in all it’s carefully-worded glory. It provides complete details on the “new normal” that you’re probably already sick of hearing about (sorry, not sorry).

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(Las Vegas – May 27, 2020) — MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) (“MGM Resorts”) announced its planned June 4 reopening of Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand Las Vegas and The Signature, following the closure earlier this year of all of its U.S. properties amidst the coronavirus crisis.  At opening, amenities at all properties will be limited. As demand for the destination builds, additional venues within these resorts will open and other MGM Resorts properties on The Strip will reopen.

“Our hearts go out to everyone in the communities where we operate, and around the world, who has been personally impacted during this time of crisis,” said Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts’ Acting CEO and President. “As we plan for these openings, the health and safety of our guests and employees is at the forefront of all we do. Getting many of our employees back to work and welcoming guests through our doors once again will allow us to do what we do best – entertain. The team is ready and we can’t wait.”

Health & Safety

MGM Resorts recently released its comprehensive “Seven-Point Safety Plan,” a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to mitigate the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees and rapidly respond to potential new cases. The full plan can be reviewed at mgmresorts.com. We will continue to evaluate and evolve our safety protocols.  Key initiatives include:

  • Employee screening, temperature checks and COVID-19 specific training
  • COVID-19 testing offered for employees as they return to work in partnership with the local medical community
  • Employees will be required to wear masks; Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks, and in some settings where physical distancing is more difficult and/or barriers do not exist, will be required to do so.  Examples of where masks will be required include salons, certain table games where physical barriers are not in place and elevators, if riding with guests outside of their travel group. Masks will be provided, free of charge
  • A physical distancing policy will be implemented, with floor guides serving as reminders
  • For areas where physical distancing presents challenges, plexiglass barriers will be installed, or other measures will be used to reduce risks
  • Standalone handwashing stations designed by MGM Resorts conveniently located on casino floors
  • Contactless Check-In through the MGM Resorts App will allow hotel guests to go through the check-in process on their personal devices, minimizing interactions
  • Guestroom Attendants will wear masks and gloves while cleaning each room and will change gloves between guestrooms
  • In addition to increased and enhanced routine cleaning of guestrooms and public spaces based on CDC guidance, electrostatic sprayers will be utilized in many large public spaces so that disinfectant is applied efficiently
  • Digital menus will be available to view on personal mobile devices via QR codes in the company’s food and beverage outlets
  • To minimize groups congregating while they wait, restaurant guests will receive text message notification when their tables are ready
  • MGM has compiled its own internal team and processes to respond if a guest or employee tests positive for COVID-19.  We ask that if a guest tests positive after visiting one of our properties, they alert us through a special email address (covid19@mgmresorts.com).  We will immediately report any positive test results to the local health department and assist with contact tracing to support the health department investigators.

For a full listing of amenities that will be available at each resort, please visit mgmresorts.com. Complimentary self-parking will be available for guests; valet parking will not be operational at this time.

A glimpse at what guests can expect:

Bellagio

Bellagio’s Conservatory will open with a beautiful new Japanese Spring Garden display called “Japan Journey: Magic of Kansai”. The resort’s iconic fountains will once again come to life. Food & Beverage amenities will include a variety of lounges such as Petrossian Bar, featuring its signature pianist as well as casual and fine-dining restaurants like Prime and Lago. The Mayfair Supper Club, which opened only a few months ago to rave reviews, will also reopen its doors. The lush pool will open with a selection of cabanas available. The Salon and Fitness Center also will be available.

New York-New York

In addition to a variety of bars and dining offerings including the lively Tom’s Urban, New York-New York guests can enjoy the highly popular Big Apple Roller Coaster and Big Apple Arcade, as well as Hershey’s Chocolate World. Just in time for celebrating summer, the pool will open with a selection of cabanas available. The property’s Fitness Center will be available to hotel guests. Many of the venues at the adjacent Park are slated to open, as well.

MGM Grand and The Signature

MGM Grand, known for its dynamic mix of offerings, will open a number of bars and lounges as well as casual and fine-dining venues including Craftsteak and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. A selection of cabanas will be available alongside a portion of the resort’s exciting pool environment. The Salon and Fitness Center will be available to hotel guests. The Signature at MGM Grand also will open with a variety of its amenities available.

Days and hours of operation at all venues will vary. For a full list of offerings, and to make reservations, please visit mgmresorts.com.

Caesars Entertainment is going a little more conservative than MGM, with only Flamingo and Caesars Palace slated to reopen at first:

We are ecstatic to announce that we will begin the re-opening of the Fabulous Flamingo on Thurs, June 4. We will offer lodging, dining options, access to GO Pool at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino and the Beach Club pool, as well as slot machines & table games in accordance with physical distancing guidelines.

We are pleased to announce that we will begin re-opening the Palace on Thursday, June 4. We are happy to offer lodging, dining options, access to the Garden of the Gods pools, as well as slot machines & table games in accordance with physical distancing guidelines.

Fees for paid self-parking will be suspended. For more information on the Company’s health and safety protocols, visit: Caesars.com/health.

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Westgate Las Vegas has set a date of June 18th for their return, but that will quite likely be moved up with everyone else doing June 4th. Click here for updated information via their own reservation site. I already unveiled the historic resort’s extensive care protocols in this piece and am currently in Florida to witness their procedures in action. I’ll tell you all about that in an upcoming series that was announced here.

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Nearby Sahara is accepting reservations for stays beginning June 4th. They’ve also released a formal COVID-19 operations plan, as seen here:

(May 21, 2020) – SAHARA Las Vegas today released a comprehensive outline of health and safety protocols under the resort’s SAHARA Cares program that will be implemented upon re-opening following the government-mandated closure of the property on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The outline details enhancements to the resort’s rigorous sanitation protocols along with new social distance considerations. SAHARA Las Vegas collaborated with experts to establish hundreds of additional practices to minimize risk for guests and team members. A full overview of the SAHARA Cares program may be found at SAHARALasVegas.com/SAHARACares/.
“The health and safety of our guests and team members is our number one priority,” said Paul Hobson, SAHARA Las Vegas Senior Vice President and General Manager. “In addition to the enhanced cleaning practices, we have developed new service initiatives designed with the wellbeing of our guests in mind. We recognize the ongoing need to stay informed regarding the latest recommended protocols and resources to deter the spread of the virus. We are committed to ensuring both our guests and team members can feel safe when they come to our resort.”
SAHARA Las Vegas continues to follow the orders of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. Resort leadership anticipate a phased approach to re-opening and look forward to welcoming back team members and guests as soon as it is recommended to do so.
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The Cosmopolitan is set to unlock its doors at 10am on June 4th. The swanky hotel casino recently earned an early slot on my “2020 Year-End Naughty List” when an eagle-eyed reader discovered that the swanky resort plans to raise their resort fees. Cosmo’s PR agency sent this release out just within the hour, loaded with answers to most of your questions:

(May 27, 2020) – The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas reopens its doors to the public on June 4 at 10 a.m. PST. Following Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s directive on May 26 permitting gaming properties to return to business on June 4, and upon receiving approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, The Cosmopolitan prepares to welcome guests back to the luxury casino-resort. As health and safety remain a top priority, The Cosmopolitan has implemented strict guidelines that meet or exceed the standards set by local, state and federal authorities.

“In the past ten years, we have had the privilege of creating environments that house lasting memories for many. And while our world has changed, our commitment to the wellbeing of our guests, CoStars [Cosmopolitan employees] and community remains. As we all acclimate to this new normal, we know the travel experience our guests have grown accustomed to will be altered. However, we are committed to delivering the exceptional service, energy and dedication that our CoStars provide and our guests seek. We look forward to welcoming our guests back to the resort soon.” – William P. McBeath, President & Chief Executive Officer of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Health & Safety Standards

Under the guidance of health and safety professionals, The Cosmopolitan created a comprehensive, internal plan, The Cosmopolitan Commitment, which builds upon existing health and safety procedures and addresses new operational and reporting processes. An extensive range of enhancements, including advanced cleaning and sanitization protocols, have been implemented resort-wide. Measures include dedicated CoStar training, social distancing guidelines, non-invasive temperature screenings, floorplan and furniture reconfiguration, signage installations, in-room sanitization amenity for guests and more.

Additional offerings that further support health and safety efforts:

·        A standout feature provided to guests can be found in the resort’s distinct room design. More than 70% of the 3,033 guest rooms at The Cosmopolitan feature open-air access from a private terrace. Guests who book a room with a terrace can easily step outside for fresh air at any time during their stay.

·        The Cosmopolitan’s chat bot and 24/7 digital concierge, Rose, provides contactless guest service and resort information through a guest’s personal cellular device. With a text to Rose, guests can get assistance ordering room service, requesting housekeeping services, making restaurant reservations, and have a direct connection to concierge, guest services, hotel room check-out and more.

·        Additionally, QR (Quick Response) codes will be utilized at various bars and restaurants as a touchless option for guests to view menus. QR codes will be introduced to additional areas throughout the resort in the coming weeks.

Further details for guests and visitors can be found on The Cosmopolitan’s Health & Sanitization webpage.

Resort Updates

The Cosmopolitan will reopen with a multi-phased approach. Hotel reservations and an initial set of venues and amenities will open with the resort followed by a slow reintroduction of additional outlets in the coming months. Reservation dates are now open for booking and a curated summer promotion is available on the Offers page of the resort’s website. Additionally, The Cosmopolitan will waive paid self-parking for all guests. Valet parking will continue to remain complimentary for hotel guests as previously offered.

The following venues and amenities will be available for guests beginning June 4. Additional information, including instruction for making a reservation and hours of operation, can be found on The Cosmopolitan’s website.

·        Restaurants: The majority of The Cosmopolitan’s Restaurant Collection will open with the resort. This includes: Beauty & Essex, Blue Ribbon, Block 16 Urban Food Hall (including District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew., Tekka Bar, Hattie B’s, Lardo and Pok Pok Wing), China Poblano, Eggslut, Estiatorio Milos, Jaleo, Holsteins, Milk Bar, Overlook Grill, Scarpetta, Starbucks, STK, The Henry, The Juice Standard, The Pizzeria and Zuma. 

·        Bars & Lounges: The Chandelier, Vesper Bar, CliQue Bar & Lounge and Race & Sports Book Bar will open with the resort.

·        Gaming: The casino floor, high limit rooms and the Race & Sports Book will be available for guests at the time of reopening.

 ·        Spa, Salon & Fitness: Sahra Spa, Salon & Hammam will open daily. The Boulevard and The Chelsea tower fitness centers as well as the outdoor tennis courts will also be open and accessible to hotel guests. 

·        Pools: The Boulevard Pool will open with the resort, with appropriately spaced lounge chairs, daybeds and cabanas, with dedicated cocktail service, available for guests.

·        Retail: A variety of retail shops will open with the resort.

Venues pertaining to entertainment, nightlife or spa remain closed for the time being. Updates and additional venue openings with hours of operation can be found on the Travel Updates page on The Cosmopolitan’s website.

Community Efforts

The Cosmopolitan is dedicated to serving the local community through a variety of initiatives, now more than ever in an effort to give-back to first responders and local charities in need.

·        Honoring First Responders: The Cosmopolitan honors first responders who have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis with 25% off room bookings now through the end of the year. First responders can book their room reservation by calling 800-435-0005.

·        The Giving Module: The resort continues its efforts through the Giving Module program, which provides guests with the option to donate change from their slot play winnings to a local charity organization.  Beginning in June, charitable beneficiaries include HELP of Southern Nevada, Goodie Two Shoes, American Heart Association and Veterans Village. These are in addition to a local non-profit organization benefiting first responders, which will be announced in the coming weeks. In further support of the selected charities, The Cosmopolitan matches up to $10,000 of all donations each quarter. Organizations interested in benefiting from The Cosmopolitan’s Giving Module program should reach out directly to GivingModuleProduct@everi.com to be considered.

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My in-box continues to be flooded with similar announcements as I prepare to publish this piece, but you’re getting the gist of all of them. Clearly, major hotel casinos have been spending their down time reworking the system and waiting for an all-clear. Even the so-called “locals casinos” have sent out their plans. This one is from Boyd Gaming, parent company to The Orleans and several locations at Fremont Street:

Boyd Gaming Corporation today announced plans to resume operations at nine of its Nevada properties on Thursday, June 4, pending receipt of final regulatory approvals: The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Aliante, Cannery, Sam’s Town, Fremont, California and Jokers Wild.

“We are excited for the opportunity to resume operations in our home state of Nevada,” said Keith Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Gaming. “By the first week of June, we look forward to having 19 of our 29 properties across the country back in operation, and we are optimistic that we will be able to reopen most of our remaining properties by the end of June. As we continue to return to business, we will remain diligent in protecting the health and safety of every person who comes through our doors, following strict safety protocols that meet the highest standards set by federal, state and local officials.”

Upon reopening, all of Boyd Gaming’s Nevada properties will operate with limited amenities and capacity restrictions in compliance with state and local requirements. Specific amenities and restrictions include:

Food Outlets: All properties will have select dining options open with varied hours. All buffets will remain closed at this time.

Casino Bars: All properties will have select casino bars open with varied hours.

Gaming:

· All properties will have slots and video poker available 24/7, following social distancing requirements.

· Table games will be available at Aliante, Cannery, the Cal, Fremont, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town and The Orleans with varied hours. Seating will be limited in accordance with social distancing requirements.

· The Orleans will offer poker with select hours. Seating at each table will be limited.

· Aliante, Gold Coast, Sam’s Town and Suncoast will offer Bingo with varied hours.

· Sports books will be open at Aliante, Cannery, Fremont, Gold Coast, Sam’s Town, Suncoast and The Orleans with varied hours.

Amenities:

· Fremont will offer valet services. Valet will be closed at all other properties.

· Pools at Aliante and The Orleans will open with varied hours.

· Bowling will be available at Gold Coast, Sam’s Town, Suncoast and The Orleans with varied hours.

· Gift shops will be open at properties that offer this amenity.

· All movie theaters, showrooms, fitness centers and spas will remain closed during the initial reopening phase.

Details on individual amenity, restaurant and gaming openings/closures along with hours of operations can be found on the website for each property.

Additionally, all Boyd Gaming properties will practice “Boyd Clean,” a set of comprehensive protocols aimed at protecting the health and safety of our team members and guests. These protocols include:

· Mandatory face coverings and temperature checks for all team members;

· Social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions across all customer and team member areas, including casino floors and restaurants;

· Enhanced cleaning and sanitation of all high-touch surfaces, including door handles, gaming machines, table games, handrails and elevator buttons;

· Increased placement of hand sanitizer dispensers throughout our properties;

· Required training for all team members on our safety protocols.

For additional information on the Boyd Clean initiative, visit http://www.boydgaming.com/boyd-clean.

Three of Boyd Gaming’s southern Nevada properties – Eastside Cannery, Eldorado and Main Street Station – remain closed during the initial reopening phase. While the Gold Coast will reopen its casino and some restaurants on June 4, the Gold Cost hotel will remain closed at the present time.

Plenty of other Downtown hotel-casinos like Plaza and Downtown Grand are set for a June 4th restart. The Fremont Street Experience removes the barricades one day earlier, June 3rd at 9am. Here’s their official announcement:

LAS VEGAS – Fremont Street Experience (FSE) announced today they will reopen the pedestrian mall and access to adjacent hotel casinos and retail stores when they reopen on June 3 at 9 a.m.

Leading up to the reopening of FSE’s casino partners, the world’s largest single video screen, Viva Vision, will display a 144-hour countdown that will conclude at the exact moment gaming operations restart at 12:01 a.m. on June 4.

Adhering to the guidelines put forth by the Global Association for the Attractions Industry (IAPPA), SlotZilla zipline will also reopen in downtown Las Vegas on June 4 at 4 p.m.

As downtown Las Vegas prepares to reopen, FSE will continue to employ robust cleaning procedures designed to mitigate the spread of the virus based on guidance of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and public health officials. To ensure the safety of visitors and employees, FSE will disinfect the pedestrian mall, parking garage and SlotZilla towers twice a day with environmentally friendly and highly effective products that are immediately safe for human contact.

“The health and well-being of our guests, tenants, resort partners and employees remain a top priority to Fremont Street Experience,” said Patrick Hughes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fremont Street Experience. “Although experiences will be altered to adjust to this new normal, we are committed to reinvigorating downtown Las Vegas and helping make a positive impact in the community. We look forward to welcoming guests back to Fremont Street Experience soon.”

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While many Strip hotels won’t be offering bar service at first, The Golden Tiki in nearby Chinatown will be ready June 5th to serve some of the best cocktails in the city. The Golden Tiki is an absolute must-do, so be sure to head over. Here’s their startup plan, naturally presented with whimsy and a dollop of “outrageous” courtesy of proprietor Branden Powers:

The Golden Tiki, Las Vegas’ world-renowned tiki bar experience, will reopen Friday June 5th from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Creator/Co-Owner Branden Powers announced today. They will open again Saturday, June 6th and Sunday, June 7th, close Mon-Tues and reopen again Wednesday, June 10th on a daily schedule all with the same hours, 5 p.m.- 2 a.m. (until further notice).

A limited number of patrons will be seated and served with heightened service–Reservations via the goldentiki.com website are very strongly suggested. Of course, the best safety and sanitation protocols will be followed at all times.

“Now that our capacity is smaller, we’re looking to use this opportunity to offer our fans a more exclusive-style Tiki experience,” said Powers. “We want to safely transport everyone to a faraway island where the only thing we have to fear is a cursed totem. Oh, and headhunters.”

Led by Head Bartender And Witchdoctor General Adam “Fauci” Rains, the Golden Tiki team will serve the full cocktail menu plus unannounced specials, as well a menu of tasty bites. This is not your grandfather’s pandemic party.

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Branden Powers is also the mastermind behind downtown’s Evel Pie, an all-smiles Fremont Street pizza joint that reopened on May 28th.

My friends at Las Vegas Magazine just published a comprehensive list of what’s set to re-open. It includes restaurants, attractions, gaming, and much more. You can also visit the website of any particular Vegas destination to find out what plans your favorites have in place.

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So at last, Sin City is back….sorta-kinda-maybe. If you’re ready and eager to “Vegas” again, then put on your party shoes and step through the Magic Curtain. Just remember to bring a face mask and an ample supply of hand sanitizer, okay?

Banner photo: Mike Hammer Comedy Magic 

They’re Back! Sizzling Rumors and Facts On Beefcake Revues


Lots of news coming our way as Sin City prepares for its rebirth. A large chunk of this week’s is focused on the big hunks of male stripper shows. Let’s dive right in!

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The biggest story is the unsubstantiated rumor that Caesars Entertainment is intent on moving CHIPPENDALES from their custom showroom at Rio Las Vegas to the now-vacant OMNIA NIghtclub. As you’ve no doubt heard, there will be plenty of large, flashy venues collecting dust in the months ahead. What better way to maximize all that square footage than with social distancing-style audience setups?

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My insider source tells me that powers at Caesars Palace are gung-ho on the idea and are in talks with Chippendales’ New York City office to make it happen. My Chipps contact here in the city is unaware of the supposed negotiations but was excited at the prospect. An on-Strip performance space would be ideal for the gold-standard dance-and-grind, especially now that Caesars has announced the removal of parking fees from all of their hotel-casinos.

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Another advantage of being on Las Vegas Boulevard is that Chippendales could do a literal face-off (chest-off?) with their biggest competitor – Magic Mike Live. The poorly reviewed (at least by me) revue has finally confirmed their new home at Sahara. I have the statement below from SAHARA Las Vegas and MAGIC MIKE LIVE:

Both SAHARA Las Vegas and MAGIC MIKE LIVE! are committed to bringing the show to the property as planned. As phased reopening guidelines for the state are implemented by Governor Steve Sisolak, SAHARA Las Vegas and MAGIC MIKE LIVE! will adjust the show’s opening timeline in its new venue accordingly. We look forward to announcing more details and welcoming back our guests and audiences in the near future.

Despite my prediction that MML was dead in the water after COVID-19, the lastest is that the build-out of their custom venue will resume/continue. Look for a new opening date in perhaps early 2021. Let’s hope the show undergoes that long-needed retooling, too. Keep the guys, but ditch that insufferable female host.

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Aussie Heat is another possible “Phoenix” rising from the ashes. The independent (and superior) challenger to Thunder From Down Under had barely gotten acquainted with their new spot at MOSAIC On The Strip when the shutdown hit. Now they’ve posted a target return date of July 2nd (details here).

Host Adam Barr has confirmed the goal-date but told me that the virus situation will dictate if this plays out. No word yet on how the blatantly hands-on experience would address social-distancing guidelines, but the boys have nearly two months to figure that one out.

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The shutdown has spurred creativity and online performances have taken hold. Chippendales was one first to the scene with Chippendales@Home, a virtual interactive party. Cast members of the show give you and your friends a personal pay-per-view performance using web-conference platforms like ZOOM.

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This Memorial Day weekend saw the debut of Men of Vegas Live, a weekly virtual male striptease. Overseen by Russ White and Garrett Pattiani, Men of Vegas Live features performers from the male members of Spearmint Rhino. Yes, the gentlemen’s club has gotten into men!

For the latest updates and news, be sure to visit/follow Vegas Unfiltered Blog’s official Facebook page

 

From Mormon to Male Revue: One Man’s Evolution, Vegas-style


Chippendales performer Ryan Worley’s solitary road to redemption…

Sin City’s adult production shows have been around for decades. In other cities, sexy performers might be viewed with a certain disdain, but here they are regarded with a unique reverence.

The showgirls of Jubilee! and Folies Bergere will always be iconic. The men of Aussie Heat are genuine bonafide trained dancers of impressive skill. The ladies of SEXXY and FANTASY work hard for the money. And then there are the Chippendales…a macho, muscular troupe whose name is synonymous with classy male entertainment.

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       Ryan and fellow Chipp James Davis don purple to support LGBTQ youth…

In a recent article I called the men of ChippendalesShirtless Angels of Charity“. They do indeed spend plenty of time contributing wonderful work for the Las Vegas community. But first and foremost, they’re a hunky bunch of guys who grind out sets in the gym before bumping and grinding onstage.

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Twenty-seven year old Ryan Worley never imagined that one day he’d be taking off his clothes for a paying audience. Raised within the strict guidelines and culture of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Worley was as far from Chippendales stock as one could imagine.

Yet we don’t always know what’s around the corner or lies over the horizon. And Ryan’s life so far has been anything but predictable.

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                         Ryan (far left) in a family photo with his siblings…

I was born in California on August 6th, 1990 and am the second oldest of four kids. We were raised in the Mormon religion and devoted to the church. After high school I was dating a girl who was not a Mormon…and being with her made me not want to serve my two-year mission.

Not volunteering for missionary work is very frowned upon within the culture. People will go as far as to shunning you for it…and that was the case for me.

Instead, I went to college at Brigham Young University in Idaho. This is a Mormon school and they have three campuses (Provo, Utah is the largest and most popular). I completed three semesters there and eventually transferred to Utah Valley University.

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While attending Utah Valley University, Ryan lived with a friend whose father was a Mormon Bishop. It was clear that, despite avoiding missionary service and not being very active any longer, his exposure to the Latter Day Saints Movement was deeply entrenched in every aspect of his life.

At the age of twenty, Worley was attracted to a fellow employee at the pizza parlor where he moonlighted. This young lady was active in the Mormon church and got Ryan to attend again. After dating for two years the couple got married…but their romance was short-lived.

Someone once told me when we first married that the number one cause of divorce is unmet expectations…a sentence which resonated inside me. That’s when I got into fitness. The gym became my sanctuary and a place where I could let go.

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Throwing himself into the lifestyle of intense fitness was very therapeutic. While building his body, Ryan acquired a new level of self-esteem which was critical in this period. The change to his physique was astounding. Still, it wasn’t enough to mend the difficulties with his bride.

I told her that I wanted a divorce and she didn’t put up much of a fight. We sold our house and she went back to southern California…I moved north to the Salt Lake City area.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

Ryan dove head-first into the fitness industry, serving as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist for a company called Complete Nutrition. While adjusting to a newly-single life in his small apartment, he was helping others get their own lives back on track. Knowing how to design customized meal plans for clients was invaluable when Worley planned to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

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Spending hours at home on his stationary bike, Ryan discovered the documentary The Perfect Physique on Netflix (readers may recall that I covered the red-carpet premiere of this film at Palms Casino during the 2015 Mr. Olympia).

Ever since I got into fitness I’d wanted to do modeling and end up on a cover of a magazine. TJ Hoban, who is a well-known fitness model, was talking in the film about the difficulties he’d faced, like when he had a serious onstage accident during a Chippendales performance back in the 90’s.

I’d heard about Chippendales before but didn’t know exactly what it was or what it entailed. What I did know was that if my idol TJ Hoban was part of it, then it must be something great.

I went online and immediately filled out an application, submitted a few pictures and told a little about myself…but I never actually expected to hear back from them.

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                                        Actor/model/fitness star TJ Hoban…

Even though his own performance experience was limited to a small Mormon singing/dancing group, Ryan was bursting with excitement…and hope. After applying, he joked with his Complete Nutrition employer that if Chippendales hired him he’d need to give notice.

Two weeks later, an email arrived from the show’s General Manager for an invitation-only audition:

I needed to rent a car for the drive from Utah to Vegas because my own was so crappy. Nobody knew about the audition. When I arrived early in the day, it was straight to the gym to pump up and look my best.

I was one of about fifteen guys there…and they all looked incredible. Kristen Makhathini (the show’s General Manager at the time) led the audition and had us take our shirts off for head shots.

We got on stage and began learning choreography. This was all very new to me. After about ten minutes, they split us into groups and mine was first. We ran through the routine a couple of times, then Kristen said “Alright guys, we are going to start cutting people so if you hear your name we don’t need you anymore and thank you for coming out”. The next sentence made my stomach drop: “Everyone in the first group except for Ryan can go home. Thank you”.

These other guys had flown in from all over the world and it was over for them in less than twenty minutes! My heart was beating out of my chest! They narrowed us down to four of us and said we’d know in a week. There were two spots, one for touring and another for the Vegas show. The tour manager came up to me and asked if I was able to get a passport. “I think I want to steal you for the tour” she said.

My mind went crazy…why did she just say “steal”? Did that mean I got the Vegas spot? That evening I watched the show for the first time, drove back to Utah overnight and never told anyone about it.

When the call came that he’d be a part of the Vegas production, it was time to shock his boss with the news of what he’d done…and to give that resignation notice they’d kidded about.

Along with this sudden change in his life’s course was the realization that he’d be stirring up controversy with his conservative friends and family.

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When I asked him what kind of reactions he received after telling people about Chippendales, Ryan sighed and took a moment to collect his thoughts. He was reluctant to slam the culture he’d been a part of for so long, but felt that he’d somehow broken free of someone else’s control and was ready to speak out about it.

My family has had a rough time with my new career but I knew they probably would. They don’t fully understand it or know what it is.

I’m no longer a member of the Mormon church but my friends and loved ones are and I want to respect that. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the truth is that they teach you to be close-minded. I remember how my siblings and I were treated after our parents divorced. We sat in the back of the church, alone, like outcasts among our own people.

Mormons have their own stance on issues and you have to accept them as yours. When I grew up, I found myself asking “Are these values mine because I’m naturally a good person or were they were taught to me by the church?. Even now I’m not sure, but my mom did bring me up to be a respectful man.

Worley went on to discuss things about the Mormon culture that still concern him. Matters like their unequal treatment of minorities and the LGBTQ community. He feels that’s why a lot of Americans are now leaving the church…and why it currently targets impressionable third-world countries.

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But now that he’s found a new “family” with his Chippendales brothers and their socially-positive work, Ryan Worley is ready to move forward and continue making things better for himself…and others.

I’ve been a Chippendale for almost a year now and love everything it has to offer. I get to do charity work in the community and appear on numerous TV shows. It feels like my years of struggle are over. This is my big break…I go to work and people cheer for me!

I reached out to TJ Hoban and Kandice King (directer of The Perfect Physique), told them my story and how much that documentary changed my life. They seemed very happy to have helped make my life a little better.

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After interviewing Ryan for this piece, I attended a performance of Chippendales at the Rio. Sitting in front of me, right up against the stage, was a group of his buddies. They’d come to Vegas to see for themselves what their longtime friend was now a part of. And they cheered just as wildly as everyone else in the audience.

Watching Ryan’s friends gather around him in the lounge after the show was a thrill to witness and experience. This young man had finally gained confidence and acceptance from his peers. And he’d done it on his own terms.

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“I’ve always felt like I was meant for big things and want to influence people in a positive way. Maybe my story can do the same for others”.

                                                                                                    Ryan Worley

You can read more about Ryan and his current projects in my column “Hot Guys of Vegas – Eye of the Beholder“.

UPDATE 5/14/20 –

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Since the original publication of this article. Ryan Worley has fulfilled a number of goals and dreams. On 4/20/19 he competed in the Jay Cutler Desert Classic. The event was held at Tropicana Hotel Casino, where Ryan placed third in the Men’s Classic Physique True Novice category and second in Class C. He also became the 2020 cover man of the famous Chippendales calendar, a lifetime goal for fitness-centric men around the world.

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Since then, the perpetually-driven young man has taken on a number of enterprises that focus on the physical and psychological needs of children and adults. Keeping busy during the temporary shuttering of Vegas entertainment has made it possible for him to remain positive and forward-thinking. He also became the father of two gorgeous  kittens.

Chippendales performs nightly at Rio Las Vegas. Click here for showtimes and tickets via our friend at VegasFool.com.

Photos: Sammasseur, Ryan Worley, The Perfect Physique, Noel Dahl, Las Vegas Magazine, Chippendales via Facebook

 

 

 

Sin City Shutdown – Is A New Era Ahead?


Las Vegas is poised to flip the power switches back ‘on’. Will it rise from the ashes and learn from its mistakes?

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On March 17th, 2020, 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 were ordered to shutter. This included 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 would they do when food and supplies run out? The answer isn’t an easy one.

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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.

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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.


UPDATE 5/19/20 – It appears that SOMEBODY has been listening to all of us who have urged the major resort chains to make changes. MGM Resorts and Cosmopolitan have announced that they’re dropping parking fees. As VitalVegas.com reported, Caesars had no choice but to do the same. Unfortunately, nothing has been done about resort fees. In fact, Cosmopolitan will be raising theirs from $39 per day to $45.

 

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Venetian/Palazzo is slated to unlock their doors on June 1st. The giant resort has launched a program called “Share the LOVE” and they’re showing their appreciation with an offer geared towards essential workers. MGM and Westgate have publicized their sanitation protocols, which I’ve elaborated on here and here.

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Sadly, there have been major layoffs during the interim, and some casinos have decided to label themselves as “Permanently Closed”, allowing for the termination of thousands of employees without recourse or compensation. Among them are The Palms, Fiesta Henderson, Texas Station and Rampart casinos (read more here).

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So….it’s a mixed bag at this point. One victory. one stalemate…and plenty of casualties. But everything remains in flux, with major announcements arriving in my email nearly daily. As hotels ramp up their reopening plans, it is in your best interest as a customer to investigate the best deals, best prices and best overall plan before you decide to return to Sin City. Good luck and have fun…..we’re (kind of) back!

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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: ABC News

A Change Of Pace: When East Meets ‘Westgate’


Leaving Las Vegas to experience Florida resorts in the era of social distancing…

Being a combination blogger/freelance writer, one of my responsibilities is to peruse social media and news to stay current on the subjects I write about. Weary from the dearth of heavy-handed COVID-19 news and gossip, I’ve turned towards LinkedIn, a business and employment website that’s recently surged in popularity.

There I learned about Orlando-based Westgate Resorts’ vacation packages that offer fun, sun, relaxation, and adventure with a socially-distant spin. The company has over two dozen destinations (listed here), everywhere from Park City, UT to Branson, MO, and Myrtle Beach, SC. Westgate’s plan for addressing COVID-19 concerns intrigued me, especially since a long-planned visit to the area was coming up soon.

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The article, published by Red Tricycle (a family-oriented travel site), selected Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa in Orlando as an ideal place to ease back into vacationing, all while observing the parameters of our “new normal”. Encouraged by the possibilities, I reached out to the Westgate Resorts team and made arrangements to visit a few of their properties.

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Hopefully, you’ve seen my articles on measures being taken by Vegas resorts to make their reopenings a safer experience. I’ve also shared info on one of the first Vegas restaurants to welcome guests back into its dining room. Now that things are underway here, it’s time to shake off that desert sand and head back to my former digs in central Florida.

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The fact that I’ve already covered the Westgate CARES safety initiative in this article about what the future will look like for cleaner hotels, makes it a no-brainer to choose Westage Resorts for my first post-COVID excursion out of Sin City. If you’re even slightly pondering a trip this summer, it would be worth your while to read it, or at least check out the cheat sheet above.

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Also, you might fairly question the wisdom of taking a trans-continental journey so soon. But keep in mind that this flight has been on the books for quite some time. Also, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t support the efforts being taken by major airlines (I’ll be taking Southwest Airlines), restaurants, and resorts to implement sanitation and social-distancing protocols. Plus, my brain, like yours, is fried from being locked up for two months. So let’s have some well-deserved fun, shall we?

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Arriving in Orlando, I’ll be settling into a home base at Westgate Lakes Resort. Close to major attractions, this family vacation spot offers Serenity Spa, the world-class day retreat whose outstanding Vegas location I’ve reviewed here and here.

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From there, I’ll be taking a day trip to the myriad of restaurants, sights, and surf activities at Cocoa Beach Pier. Just down the street is Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort, a luxury hotel with spacious suites and a private waterpark dedicated to hotel guests.

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Later that week is Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo, located an hour south of Orlando in Polk County. There I’ll get a taste of fishing, horseback riding, zipline, and a petting zoo. I’ll also discover why “glamping” (glamorous camping) is the latest rage. The final stop on my itinerary is Westgate Vacation Villas in Kissimmee. This particular destination near Walt Disney World boasts Shipwreck Island, a full-fledged water park with slides, a lazy river, and even a large-scale “pirate ship”.

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When I return, VegasUnfilteredBlog will have in-depth coverage of my east coast adventures. In the meantime, be sure to visit the blog’s official Facebook page for the latest in Sin City events, and of course….updates on exciting reopening events in post-pandemic Las Vegas.

Photos: Westgate Resorts

 

 

MGM Resorts Releases Re-opening Plans


Sin City’s biggest player announces steps to welcome back guests…

Can you smell that in the air? It’s still pretty faint, but very distinct. It’s the fragrance of hope, something that Las Vegas desperately needs. The aromas of bleach, peroxide, and other disinfectants are coming to your hotel-casino, and you’d better get used to them if you want to stay and play.

It’s hard to believe, but today marks the third consecutive day that I can publish good news. On Sunday I told you about Westgate CARES, a nationwide protocol in which the Orlando-based resort company shared their research and programs freely with the hospitality industry. Then yesterday came news of the reopening of Esther’s Kitchen, spearheading a wave of similar announcements.

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Vegas Unfiltered Blog reader “Dolores” had a question about Sunday’s piece, for which I had no answer. But today I offer a converse response regarding MGM Resorts‘ measures to address sanitation and operational procedure changes. Here it is as presented courtesy of Jenn Smulo of Kirvin Doak, the Vegas-based public relations firm that represents MGM Resorts, Westgate Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil, and several charities in the valley.

(May 12, 2020) – MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) today released a report outlining the comprehensive health and safety protocols the company is implementing prior to re-opening its domestic properties and resorts which were temporarily closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report details MGM Resorts’ “Seven-Point Safety Plan” – a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to deter the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees and rapidly respond to potential new cases. The full report can be found HERE.

“Preparing for the moment we can re-open our doors, MGM Resorts focused on developing a plan that puts health and safety at the center of everything we do. Our ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ is the result of months of consultations with public health experts and outlines our comprehensive approach to welcoming guests back safely,” said MGM Resorts Acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle. “Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only okay, it’s critically important. We will continue providing the hospitality experiences we are known for, but we must do so safely. We will continue working with experts and following guidance from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and government officials and regulators as we evolve these protocols based on the latest information.”

EXPERT GUIDANCE

MGM Resorts Lead Health and Safety Advisor: Dr. Shannon Magari, Vice President of Health Sciences for Colden Corporation 

MGM Resorts is working with Dr. Shannon Magari, ScD, MPH, MS as its lead health and safety advisor for this process. Dr. Magari is the Vice President of Health Sciences for Colden Corporation, an occupational health, safety and environmental firm. Dr. Magari obtained her Master of Science from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and received her doctoral training and served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health – specializing in Occupational Epidemiology. 

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OVERVIEW: MGM RESORTS’ SEVEN-POINT SAFETY PLAN

The full report, including detailed protocols, procedures and operational enhancements can be found HERE.

These protocols and procedures focus on balancing the customer service guests have come to expect from MGM Resorts with the urgent need to apply knowledge about COVID-19 and adapt environments accordingly. This plan is being implemented at MGM Resorts’ properties throughout the United States, with additions and changes being made based on local jurisdictions.

MGM Resorts’ Seven-Point Safety Plan is as follows:

  1. Screening, Temperature Checks and Employee TrainingMGM Resorts has implemented employee-screening measures to assess signs and symptoms of infection and whether the employee resides or cares for someone who has recently been diagnosed with the virus. Employees are currently and will continue to go through temperature checks before entering properties.

Guests will be asked to abide by a similar self-screening protocol prior to arriving and during their stay. Guests who have reason to believe they may have been exposed to the virus are strongly urged to follow CDC guidelines for self-quarantine and not travel. We will look forward to welcoming those guests once the self-quarantine period is complete.

  1. Mandatory Masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)All MGM Resorts employees will be provided and required to wear an approved mask when on our properties. We will also strongly encourage guests to wear masks in public areas and offer masks to any guests who need one, free of charge. Gloves will continue to be worn by employees who require them to do their jobs, such as food handlers and employees who clean public areas. Additional categories of employees required to wear PPE will be identified by medical experts.
    • Drink service: We will ask guests to minimize the amount of time masks are removed when drinking on the casino floor.
    • Eating: We will ask guests to refrain from eating on the casino floor to minimize the amount of time masks are removed.
  1. Physical Distancing: Six-foot physical distancing policy will be in place, wherever feasible, with floor guides serving as reminders throughout MGM Resorts properties. From time-to-time, six-foot distancing will be challenging – and in those cases, reasonable mitigating protocols will be implemented, such as plexiglass barriers or eye protection for employees. Plexiglass barriers will be installed in areas throughout casinos and lobbies, where appropriate, for the safety of guests and employees. Signage will be installed throughout properties to guide employees and guests on how to safely practice physical distancing.
  1. Handwashing and Enhanced Sanitization: Prior to property closures in March, MGM Resorts implemented increased and enhanced routine cleaning, based on CDC guidelines, with a focus on high-touch surfaces in common areas. We will continue using proven cleaning products in accordance with EPA guidelines for coronaviruses, bacteria and other infectious pathogens. Electrostatic sprayers will be used in many large areas to allow us to apply disinfectant more efficiently.

In addition, custom-built handwashing stations with soap and water, along with hand-sanitizing stations, will be readily available in high-traffic areas and with a visible presence. Signage will be installed to guide and remind employees and guests of the importance of proper handwashing protocols.

  1. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Controls and Air Quality: MGM Resorts has always placed a high priority on air quality for our guests and has reviewed the operation of HVAC systems to identify additional opportunities to enhance their effectiveness. Rigorous measures in accordance with established guidelines to help mitigate the risk of virus transmission have been taken throughout our properties.

As scientific information becomes available about the virus, and as additional guidance from state and local authorities and our medical experts evolve, we will continue to review and adjust the operation of our HVAC systems, fully recognizing the important role they have in keeping employees and guests healthy and safe.

  1. Incident Response Protocols: MGM Resorts has protocols in place aimed at reducing the chance infection will spread. In the unfortunate event a guest or employee tests positive for the virus, we will activate incident response protocols to ensure the infected individual has access to medical treatment, exposed areas are thoroughly sanitized and, when possible, notify those who may have come in close, prolonged contact with the infected individual. MGM Resorts has medical and security personnel on staff to respond quickly in the event of an incident.
  1. Digital Innovations: MGM Resorts is reimagining several aspects of the guest experience through technology to transition current processes into contactless options for guests that eliminates or reduces the need for waiting in line.
    • Contactless Check-In: Guests will have the ability to complete the check-in process entirely themselves through the MGM Resorts mobile app. This includes the ability to process payment, verify identification and obtain a digital room key, all through a mobile device. If preferred, physical keys will be available through self-serve key encoders. Employees will be available for guests who prefer check-in without using their mobile device, while still maintaining a line-reduced environment.
    • Food & Beverage: Digital menus will be available to view on personal mobile devices via QR code. Virtual queues will be in place for guests when immediate seating is unavailable. Guests will receive a text message notification when their table is ready.

 

Do you know of any positive actions being taken by Vegas-centric corporations related to the pandemic shutdown? Feel free to tell us about it in the “COMMENTS” section or drop me an email – Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog. Be safe. Be smart. Be strong – Sam Novak

Photos: MGM Resorts

Esther’s Kitchen Leads a Wave of Restaurant Re-openings


Chef James Trees and team bring “Seasonal Italian Soul Food” back to Arts District…

It’s an absolute thrill to share news that life as we remember it might just be inching towards “normal”. Of course, there will be adjustments galore for both businesses and patrons…but let’s take what we can get and enjoy the wonderful experience of dining out once more.

The following is a press release I received from Eric. C. Gladstone this morning. Eric represents some of Sin City’s finest restaurants (La Strega, Vegenation, Lotus of Siam) and food festivals (Vegas Unstripped). Continue beyond the press release to my February 2019 write-up of Esther’s Kitchen, which was also featured in BestOfVegas.com. Please note that hours, menu and prices may have changed since the original publication.

Enjoy….and welcome back to the real world!

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Chef Trees during a recent online cooking class May 6, 2020

(credit: Cyndi Graham)

(May 11, 2020) – Chef/Owner James Trees has announced the reopening schedule for Esther’s Kitchen, following the statewide shutdown for COVID-19 quarantine. Esther’s Kitchen will resume dinner service next Friday, May 15 from 5-11 p.m. and open again for the same dinner hours Saturday May 16 and Sunday May 17.

The following week, the restaurant will resume dinner service Wed May 20 through Sunday May 24, and then dinner service will resume a 7 day schedule from Friday May 29. Weekend brunch service will resume Saturday & Sunday, May 30-31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Weekday lunch service will resume on Monday June 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 pm.

Per guidelines set by the State of Nevada and SNHD, Esther’s Kitchen will reduce the number of tables in the restaurants by 50%, with no bar seating until further notice. Dining on the front and rear patios will also be available. All service staff and kitchen staff will meet and exceed all mandated safety precautions while maintaining highest levels of service. Reservations through the website and over the phone will be strongly recommended, and guests will be asked to respect proper social distancing.

The restaurant will also be debuting a new menu, featuring more new vegetable-forward dishes, more new pastas and more main courses alongside many of diners’ established favorites. “We are excited to be getting back to serving our friends & neighbors,” said Chef Trees, “and especially excited to share some of the new dishes we’ve been working on.”

Key Dates:  5/15-17: Dinner resumes, 5-11 p.m.

5/20-5/24: Dinner service, 5-11 p.m.

5/29: Dinner returns to seven-day schedule, 5-11 p.m.

5/30-31 Weekend Brunch resumes, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

6/1: Weekday Lunch resumes, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.


ESTHER’S KITCHEN TURNS BRUNCH INTO ART

Feb 15, 2019 | By Sam Novak

Sometimes the best new offerings in any city are ones that spring up in gentrified areas. For Las Vegas, the eighteen-block region now known as the Art District was once a collection of run-down warehouses and abandoned shops. These days, a new vibe of hipster-cool is drawing both young and old back to the area.

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Nestled in among the graffiti-style wall murals, art galleries and coffee shops is a grand little place named Esther’s Kitchen. While technically located at 1130 S. Casino Blvd, the cafe physically faces E. California Avenue, unit #110. So while it may be a bit tricky to find, Esther’s Kitchen is definitely worth seeking.

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Esther’s Kitchen is the brainchild of Chef James Trees, whose late great-aunt Esther bequeathed him the funds to make the restaurant possible. A protege of sorts of the world-famous Michael Mina, Trees made his mark in countless establishments on and around the Strip before venturing out on his own.

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Esther’s Kitchen is the culmination of Chef Trees’ storied career…and a wonderful reflection of his upbringing. His goal is for every guest to feel welcome and cared for. The open kitchen, whimsical decor and friendly staff may remind you of visits to a favorite relative, but it’s with the food that Esther’s Kitchen really shines.

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Esther’s boasts a farm-to-table operation. Everything is locally sourced or brought in from the best nearby suppliers. It’s worth noting that prices are far less than you’d pay elsewhere for dishes of this quality and presentation.

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The weekend brunch, for which I was an invited guest, features a variety of familiar favorites given a homespun Italian slant. My companion and I were invited to select two entrees to accompany a sampler of Chef’s choices.

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We started out with a plate of warm fluffy Biscuits with Chive Butter ($5) along with Toasted Italian Bread under layers of cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions and capers ($11).

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Next came a bowl of Malfada Nero ($19), a dish whose dark mafaldine pasta is colored with cuttlefish ink. The unique wavy noodles are tossed with big chunks of lobster (flown in directly from Gloucester, Mass.), fennel, lemon and truffle butter, and the dish is as mouth-watering as it sounds.

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My main course from the list of “Egg Dishes” was a plate of Polenta with two sunny-side Chino Ranch eggs, mushrooms, truffle butter and frico chips ($14). My guest took a cue from the lunch menu and indulged in an enormous Chicken Parm ($13) smothered in provolone, organic tomato sauce and basil. Sandwiches are accompanied by housemade root chips and a simple salad.

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Some of the other brunch specialties include Ricotta Pancakes topped with blueberry compote and lemon butter ($12), a Breaky Sandwich with sausage, fried egg, fontina cheese, greens and potatoes ($12) and Bread Pudding French Toast Sticks served with maple and golden dipping syrups ($10).

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During weekdays, Esther’s Kitchen caters to the Downtown lunch crowd with fast counter service. Parties of six or more can make reservations for full table service. The lunch menu has a variety of delectable pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches.

Esther’s dinner menu builds on crowd-pleasers from the lunch menu, and adds a hearty selection of main courses. Market Fish with charred orange braised endive ($28), Pachamama Farm Porchetta with squash and brussels ($27) and Rye Tagliatelle with braised duck and mushrooms ($24) should satisfy your cravings.

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Despite the intimate size of the dining room, Esther’s Kitchen boasts a full bar whipping up classics, alongside Seasonal Market Cocktails. It also hosts a daily “Pasta Happy Hour” – from 5 to 7 and 9 to 11, enjoy any adult beverage and get half off a pasta entree at the bar.

Whatever time you show up, you’re sure to enjoy Esther’s Kitchen. And if you’re feeling especially appreciative of your experience, you can send a round of beers to the kitchen for only six dollars.

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Esther’s Kitchen is open for brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for lunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dinner is served daily from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. For reservations, which are suggested, call 702.570.7864.

Photos: Sam Novak unless otherwise credited

 

 

MGM Resorts, Westgate Announce Measures To Protect The Community


or “When Big Corporations Do Positive Things”

I’m not going to pretend that it’s been easy to continue this blog since the pandemic struck. Things are pretty bleak out there, and a never-ending flow of bad news tends to take its toll. Combine that with the fact that my freelance work has dried up….in other words “no income or unemployment”…and a positive outlook has been tough to maintain. But like so many in this position, I soldier forward with the hope that better days are ahead.

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As I was about to post my most recent piece (Station Casino closures and Miracle Mile Shops landlord demands), it was a pleasure to find upbeat news in my in-box. So I hit “publish” on that dour article and sailed straight into this one. I hope you can appreciate a little good news as much as I did.

First up is a surprise from MGM Resorts in the form of a letter to its associates:

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In contrast to the devastating termination letter that was sent out to thousands of Station Casino associates, this one offers a shred of long-term hope. MGM Resorts promises to provide health care coverage to furloughed employees through the end of August. In addition, the company is issuing grants to cover their living expenses by way of an $13 million Employee Emergency Grant Fund.

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The notification is optimistic yet filled with realistic limitations and apparently a great deal of transparency. Given the notorious and massive profit-driven layoffs this company has instituted in the past few years (including four hotel presidents) and more on the way, it’s nice to know that MGM Resorts is finally having a heart for their employees. What a shocker.

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While MGM Resorts is usually at the front of the line when it comes to games of “Follow The Vegas Leader”, it was Wynn/Encore that apparently set this precedent. As Baily Schulz of Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on March 17th:

Wynn Resorts Ltd. has guaranteed all Wynn and Encore employees payroll coverage for the next 30 days. The company’s two Las Vegas properties are set to start a two-week shutdown at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and its Massachusetts property was ordered to close by Sunday afternoon.

Wynn had previously stated that all full-time Las Vegas employees would continue to be paid during the shutdown. But a letter sent to employees Tuesday from CEO Matt Maddox shows that coverage has been expanded to include all current employees. The letter, obtained by the Review-Journal, was addressed to employees at Wynn Las Vegas, Encore Boston Harbor and Wynn Design and Development.

Tipped employees will receive an average tip compliance rate, or “distributed tips/tokes since the beginning of the year,” according to the memo.

“I need you to focus and work on a singular task: stay home and keep your family healthy and safe,” Maddox said in the letter. “In the coming days, our Company will be paying all Wynn and Encore employees to do the work of staying home and eliminating all non-essential external social contact for you and your family. I know it will not be easy to do, which is why we will pay you to do so.”

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Las Vegas Sands (Venetian/Palazzo) put forth similar measures and they’ve continued to pay associates, at least for now. From USATODAY.COM on 4/23/20:

Casino magnate and billionaire Sheldon Adelson is extending COVID-19 shutdown pay for Las Vegas Sands employees until at least May 17, according to a letter obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.

“This pandemic is unlike anything I have seen in my business career,” Adelson wrote in the April 23 letter. “That said, we will get through it. … Until that time arrives, this company is firmly focused on the health and safety of our Team Members and supporting each of our host communities in Macao, Singapore and Las Vegas.”

While it remains unclear when the Strip will be able to re-open, Las Vegas Sands, which owns The Venetian, will continue to pay 9,300 employees through the shutdown.

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We are always incredibly grateful for healthcare workers, but especially during this time. Our resort is lit blue to honor all of the essential workers currently out there working hard to serve their communities. – Westgate Las Vegas

Westgate Resorts, which owns and operates two Las Vegas properties, has been another contributor to the “good news” department. Unlike the big three, Westgate is a very “human” company that puts their faces, personalities, strengths, and flaws out there for everyone to see. When they have problems, they strive harder. When things succeed, they share their triumphs with all who contributed.

         A personal message from President/General Manager Cami Christensen

My history with Westgate reaches back several years. Things started awkwardly when they were still a new name in town. A less-than-ideal stay turned into an open dialog of “We didn’t live up to your expectations. Can you give us a second chance?”. Since then, the historic casino/hotel on Paradise Road has become my home away from home. And their team feels very much like a family…all because they reached out and committed to striving harder.

When the pandemic situation was just starting to take hold, Westgate proactively began ramping up their sanitation procedures. They then took the bold step of shutting down some of their locations on the east coast, even before it was mandated.

Since our highest priority has always been the health and safety of our owners, guests and team members, we moved quickly to do everything possible to help flatten the curve. Before COVID-19 even reached any of the destinations where we operate, we implemented a detailed action plan to boost community safety, based on the recommendations and directives from the CDC, as well as federal, state and local health agencies.

We immediately enhanced our sanitization protocols at all our resorts, including daily deep cleaning of all public areas and back of house team member touch points. We greatly increased the number of hand-sanitizing stations at touch points for our guests and team members. We even made the difficult decision to proactively close resorts through the end of May out of an abundance of caution.

David Siegel
Founder, CEO & President

Now Westgate is extending its reach beyond resort guests and employees…to their counterparts in the hospitality industry. Westgate CARES is a new program spurred by the pandemic crisis. The initiative consists of protocols created to protect guests and associates from COVID-19…and of course, any other contaminants of concern.

In an open letter, Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip laid out the program, which will enable their resorts to operate smoothly and safely.

On behalf of the entire Westgate Family of Resorts & Team Members, we want you to know that when you are ready to celebrate life again, we are fully prepared to provide you a safe and enjoyable experience. From the very beginning of this crisis, we organized a dedicated team of professionals to rapidly develop and implement comprehensive procedures to protect our resort guests and Team Members.

These include advanced cleaning procedures, strict personal hygiene protocols and a long list of operating procedures necessary to mitigate the risk of this virus as much as possible. Every decision we made was based on one simple premise: do whatever it takes to protect our Team Members, guests and our local community, regardless of the impact to our business. – Mark Waltrip, COO

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The Westgate CARES initiative goes into a great amount of detail, broken down into categories. Common spaces, guest rooms, restrooms, pool/spa areas, offices, shuttle buses, and administrative areas are all addressed. Methods of disinfection are elaborated on, including the use of safe ultra-low-volume disinfectant foggers and sanitizing solutions.

Changes to common operations such as check-in/check-out, housekeeping, vendor screening, repairs/maintenance, laundry, bell service/bag storage, child play areas, and food/beverage service are all spelled out within individual documents. Every procedure is posted in its entirety and can be examined/downloaded by clicking here.

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All major resorts have been ramping up their safety protocols in recent weeks, so why am I focusing on Westgate? Simply because the company has freely shared its investment and research with every colleague, counterpart and competitor in the hospitality industry. It’s a move that’s indicative of their many programs that honor patrons and the public in general.

While Westgate is fortunate to have the resources to navigate this challenge, we also recognize that our local communities are only as strong as the weakest link in our chain. There are thousands of small businesses in our community who may not have the know-how and resources to put together a plan that helps them successfully and safely operate their business as the country emerges from this pandemic.

Therefore, in the spirit of helping our communities, we are sharing in its entirety, all of our plans, procedures, and protocols that outline exactly how we intend to keep our Team Members, guests and communities safe, including the procedures for our resorts, hotels, restaurants, spas, fitness centers, water parks, call centers, and offices.

These documents…represent hundreds of man-hours of research and intellectual capital from some of the hospitality industry’s most skilled leaders, and we hope that local businesses find them a helpful resource. – Mark Waltrip, COO

It’s also worth noting that the primary Vegas location on Paradise Road is one of twenty-nine destinations in the Westgate family, yet their only one with a casino. When the resort reopens on June 18th, it will follow Westgate CARES protocols in addition to stringent casino-specific guidelines as mandated by Nevada Gaming Control Board. You can learn more about those requirements by heading here.

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In last week’s column, I described devastating corporate decisions during this crisis that will define their role in Sin City’s future. MGM‘s choice to extend employee benefits won’t undo the heartache they’ve unleashed in recent years, but it’s a start.

As for Westgate, offering their COVID-19 program for free exemplifies the company’s history of goodwill. You’re free to spend your discretionary income wherever you choose, but I know who’ll be getting my money going forward.

As a valued guest in the Westgate Resorts family, I want to thank you for your patience, understanding and loyalty during this difficult time. We look forward to the day that all our communities can return to good health, and we can welcome you back home to a refreshed Westgate Resorts that’s even better than before. – David Siegel, Founder, CEO & President

Do you know of any positive actions being taken by Vegas-centric corporations related to the pandemic shutdown? Feel free to tell us about it in the “COMMENTS” section or drop me an email – Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog. Be safe. Be smart. Be strong – Sam Novak

Sabotaging Sin City’s Return


Miracle Mile Shops and Stations Casinos deliver crushing blows to the local economy amidst relaunch efforts…

Update 7/14/20 – I’ve been told by someone I trust that a major show on the Strip has pulled out all of their equipment, sets and props from the theater due to a dispute with Miracle Mile Shops landlords. They are demanding full rent incurred during the shutdown. I have been unable to confirm this with other sources, but it’s in line with the documents I’ve seen that were provided by a retailer within the mall.

Our entire nation continues to endure a seemingly endless pandemic lockdown. Weeks have turned into months, and quarantine extensions get added as our bank accounts dwindle. The world will be a very different place when all of this has passed. Only the strong, smart, and very lucky may come out of it relatively unscathed.

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The economy of Las Vegas seems to be most in jeopardy of total collapse. No other city depends so greatly on a daily influx of tourists. Our locals form a giant hospitality team, ready to host, serve, and entertain the world. If and how that will happen again has become an aggressively-debated subject, as a cringe-inducing exchange between Anderson Cooper and Mayor Carolyn Goodman recently demonstrated. So while casino execs and politicians huddle over their laptops, hashing out plans through virtual meeting apps, it’s the “little guys” who are about to suffer the most.

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This week, a series of letters was sent out to business owners and employees that will put thousands of Vegas residents permanently out of work. Those dedicated staffers and smaller-scale entrepreneurs are being erased from the chalkboard with the flick of a wrist. It’s a crushing blow delivered at time when people couldn’t possibly be more vulnerable, an ugly tactic we should remember with our wallets long after the doors to Las Vegas have been unlocked.

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Letter number one comes from Robert Buchanan, Vice President/General Manager of Miracle Mile Shops. Sent to tenants of the busy Planet Hollywood-based mall, the letter requires an agreement to pay the full amount of rent accrued during shutdown. Business owners must sign off on this legal agreement prior to reopening, despite the fact that their businesses have been unable to generate a single dollar of income since mid-March.

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The multi-page document, of which I have a copy, offers the option to defer payment of rent and spread it out over twelve months (without interest or penalties). Failure to pay the rent would result in a monetary default of lease terms. Recipients have been instructed to keep the terms confidential and not to discuss the matter with other occupants of the mall or any third parties (oops…too late).

While an interest-free rent deferral might sound generous on paper, the amounts in question can literally be hundreds of thousands of dollars per tenant. These are staggering sums that will more than likely cripple and/or close a significant percentage of Miracle Mile‘s shops and restaurants.

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The tenant that contacted me about this situation explained that rental rates are based on a monthly average of the mall’s total annual foot traffic. Nevertheless, no adjustments have been made to reflect a period of ZERO customers. No pro-rating, no discounts, no rent forgiveness, no exceptions. The store owner, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that his business was already struggling to break a profit.

Hard to share too much without giving away _____ (name of business) but I’d been trying to talk to them since this (the pandemic) started. No response, vague replies to emails. I kept asking a week leading into it. No guidance, no direction.

Finally we were given 24 hours to vacate. To get access we now have to schedule a meeting with a Miracle Mile security guy to walk us there. Total lockdown. They still want full rent. So ironic.

At Miracle Mile Shops, as in many other malls, a tenant’s rent is only one part of their financial responsibilities. They also have to pay their share of marketing, insurance, trash, water, security, facilities maintenance, and much more.

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In other cities, landlords have taken pro-active steps to offer assistance. They are so concerned about losing valued tenants that they’re asking what can be done to assure that shops will reopen. But in corporate-run Vegas, nothing matters except for pleasing the stockholders.

How is this legal? It’s insane! It will take Vegas at least a year to recover from this so how can the landlord do this to its tenants? Multiple tenantss are grouping together and with one voice seeking legal assistance to fight this greed.

It just simply breaks your gears when you’ve worked so hard for something and been paying big dollars to this landlord for them to rip out our hearts during a crisis like this.

I’ve already mentioned Mayor Goodman, whose “Open up Vegas and see what happens” stance has garnered an enormous amount of ridicule. At the opposite end is Governor Steve Sisolak, who put the statewide shutdown in place. Sisolak supports a slow and organized approach to restoring our daily lives, which has received its own share of protests and demonstrations.

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I’m not interested in delving into political arguments here, as I see logic in both approaches. The reason I bring it up is to emphasize that everyone has a stake in the decisions. Nobody has a perfect list of answers, so we wait, sacrifice, obey the rules (or protest) and watch those bank accounts dwindle down to nothing.

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In the meantime, everyone seems to be asking the same question: when will MGM Resorts open? The same with Caesars Entertainment properties and Sands Corp. (Venetian/Palazzo). And while we focused our gaze on the big three, a lesser-known chain called Station Casinos swooped in and drove a dagger through the hearts of thousands of its own employees.

Vegas-based Station, which operates ten local establishments including Sante Fe Station and Palace Station, has gotten pretty powerful in recent years. Bolstered by the success of Red Rock Hotel and Green Valley Ranch, Station plunked down a cool billion to buy and renovate the once-popular Palms Casino Resort. An undeniable failure, the “new” Palms bled massive amounts of money, mostly through the catastrophic disaster known as KAOS Nightclub.

Station Casinos rested their billion-dollar Palms investment on the shoulders of a vulgar rapper-felon…and a grown man dressed as a marshmallow…

On May 1st, Station Casinos sent out letters to full-time Palms employees, announcing their terminations…effective 5/16/20. Similar letters were mailed to employees of Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station, both operated by Station Casinos. What makes this letter particularly ruthless is that they’re referring to the shuttering of the three hotels as a “temporary closure”, which in actuality took place two months ago. What this means is that when Palms, Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station reopen (if ever), they will be treated as new entities.

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              Palms Casino is the latest tombstone monument dedicated to overreaching ambition…

In the meantime, Station is off the hook for protecting their own employees. The company will grant certain benefits through September, then the labor force is on its own. The letter also stated that their will be “no bumping rights”, meaning that terminated individuals would have to reapply for their previous jobs, forfeiting any earned seniority if they return. This also means zero opportunities to transfer to other Station locations to maintain that seniority.

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           Photo: Sky News

Some people out there may be inclined to say “Corporations have to do whatever is necessary in order to survive”. But what about right now? Unleashing a bloodbath in the current economy is simply catastrophic. I’d rather see a company dig in for the moment and take its chances later. Much later.

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So what is a struggling employee or business person to do in the current climate? We certainly can’t rely on the government to help. Very few people have had success in collecting unemployment benefits, judging by the daily posts I read on social media. Sadly, numerous businesses have announced that they won’t be coming back, either. Friends of mine from every walk of life are considering moving away and some have already begun the process.

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Performer Andrew Hill, who entertains audiences at Station Casinos, shared these hard words regarding the closure of Fiesta Henderson on Facebook:

Well looks like our contract at the Fiesta is done and dusted ! Yep, for all the clueless fools sprouting Vegas is gonna bounce back!! ….Can you all Please stfu!

If anyone quotes the most idiotic destructive statement of “Vegas always reinvents itself” or “ we’ll be bouncing back in no time” …. can you please punch them very hard in the face!

When ever the wonderful PR word “ reinvent” is used …. it is code for cost cutting, slashing entertainment and figuring out how to screw people to make more money…

For those who stick it out and hope for a successful recovery, things look bleaker every day. Think back to the long-term effects that 9/11 had on the airline industry. In order to offset dwindling profits, nearly all airlines began charging mandatory fees for checked suitcases and eventually, carry-on bags. Yet once air travel rebounded, those fees remained. They now generate more profit than actual ticket sales.

Las Vegas Hotels closed own to COVID-19 Virus.

As you read this, Las Vegas is virtually a ghost town. Every action taken by those in power during the days ahead will undoubtedly become a new standard. If the events of this week are any indication, the citizens of this city are in for for years of serious trouble.

Many of us have been hoping that Vegas will use the shutdown as an opportunity to undo damaging decisions of the past decade. Former Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst is among them. We’ve urged the Big Three to toss out resort fees, eliminate paid parking, send “celebrity chefs” packing, dump those $20 cocktails down the drain and make Las Vegas appealing to the masses once more.

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Las Vegas may be your playground. But it’s also our home. The future of this city depends on it being recognized as a community of flesh-and-blood people. But nobody seems to be listening.

Banner Photo: Palms Casino via Facebook


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Click here for the article’s companion piece “Vegas Goes Dark – The Beginning of the End…or a new Beginning?”

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Click here for my related article “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

 

 

 

‘Virtual Hosting’ – Workshops and Conferences With Sin City Flair


Vegas entertainers transform your online events from drab to fab with professional results…

If you’ve participated in online meetings at sites like ZOOM, Skype and Messenger Desktop, you know that they can sometimes be dry and clunky affairs. If that’s the case, perhaps you or your employers should consider a professional host.

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Virtual meetings are a burgeoning field that will continue to grow in this era of social distancing. Fortunately, two entertainers with Sin City backgrounds have already mastered the techniques of this platform and can transform your conference into a fun-filled yet productive affair.

Jeff Civillico

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Jeff Civillico has been thrilling Las Vegas audiences for about a decade. Energetic and charismatic, the “action comic” has been a staple at corporate functions for the majority of his career. Quick-witted and gifted with flawless audience interaction, he knows how to capture and hold your attention.

Civillico’s experience on the Vegas stage has given him a unique perspective when it comes to emceeing. He’s hosted his own Vegas-based talk show and a pilot for Travel Channel. Throw in some tech-savvy ingenuity and it’s clear that Jeff is already at the forefront of virtual hosting.

 

Initially, I was skeptical of virtual events, thinking “so much of what I do is based on connecting with the audience… how could this possibly work?” I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the virtual events I’ve hosted so far. There’s emotion, laughter, spontaneity, even real applause… you just have to unmute everyone to get it! Is it the same? No. Is it as good? If we’re being honest, no. But does it still work in a different way? Yes, I believe so. – Jeff Ciillico

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So how does having a host boost the success of web-based meetings? It’s all in the flow. As Jeff explains it:

A professional host has gone from being a nice add-on feature for your in-person event to an ESSENTIAL piece of your virtual event. Virtual meetings are going to be a little bumpy and potentially disjointed, especially in the short term. It’s going to be more difficult to get and keep attendees’ attention. You need someone who can pull all the event elements together to create a cohesive conference experience that is still engaging and impactful. You need a professional.

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The difference between virtual and real conferences is similar to the “movie theater experience” versus watching something on television. It’s easier to be distracted or lose interest when you’re on your own turf. A professional host utilizes his or her unique skills to draw attendees in and capture their focus. For Civillico, team-building exercises and comedy seem to work best:

People are loving these shows/team-building workshop combos! It’s common knowledge that the attention span of a virtual event is shorter than an in-person event… “squirrel!” … so I’ve been combining my clean comedy show with a juggling workshop and it’s proven to be very successful.

One of the basic principals of performance art is “Know Your Audience”. That rule applies to corporate functions as well. Civillico tailors each hosting gig to maximize participation, engagement, and positive response from attendees. That leads to more productive meetings and greater long-term results.

These workshops can be more “corporate” for employees and reinforce themes of connection, trust, and teamwork. Or they can be more “entertainment-based” for families of employees. Regardless of how you want to customize them for your organization, these events are high energy, interactive, and FUN!

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Win-Win Entertainment is a not-for-profit organization that Jeff spearheads. Based in Las Vegas, Win-Win Entertainment creates opportunities for professional performers to share their time and talent with children in need. They’re 100 percent volunteer-based, have no paid staff, and all performers donate their time for every event.

Win-Win has gone virtual during the pandemic, too, making it possible to continue its mission using the power of technology. Click HERE to learn more about how the organization has “pivoted” during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’re not going to let the coronavirus stop us from bringing smiles to children who need them. That’s our mission. That’s what we do. So for the time being instead of our regular in-person talent visits to children’s hospitals, we’re arranging “virtual visits.” After testing these virtual visits with several of our hospital partners, we’re rolling them out to our entire performer community.

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Jeff gave the final performance of his Las Vegas residency last December, but his work with audiences and charities is far from over. Visit jeffcivillico.com or call (702) 777-2782 for more information.

Jay Jay –

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Jay Jay is another virtual host with Sin City DNA. Like Jeff, he’s a high-energy, outrageously funny, and an absurdly handsome dynamo. The Australian entertainer/motivational speaker/model/TV show host has traveled the world, fronting gigs of every size with a level of expertise rarely seen, especially at his young age.

Constantly I hear from clients that a company has been using one of their internal staff to MC their conference. Usually the rationale is that the person
“can talk well on a mic” or “can tell a few jokes”.  This may be true but what clients don’t understand is that being good on the mic or telling a few jokes is far from what a professional MC actually does.

A great MC should be facilitating the event, getting your guests involved, and interacting with each other, plus really pushing the key messages and main themes. So when your guests do leave, it’s an event that they will talk about for years to come. – Jay Jay

Jay also draws his hosting skills from the world of entertainment. His comedy and crowd engagement abilities are unforgettable. He’s also quite a magician, as you can see from this clip:

Sin City audiences were stunned when Jay stepped up to the mic last year for an interim hosting gig at Aussie Heat. Not only did he whip the crowd into a frenzy, but he got into the act and ripped off his shirt to flaunt a stunning set of abs.

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Jay is at the top of his game when it comes to emceeing your function. Better yet, he can turn the reins over to you…AFTER teaching you how to become a more powerful public speaker. And what that boils down to is having a plan of action for when the pandemic shutdown passes.

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I work with people who are in control of their own boat. What are we doing now? And what are we doing post-COVID? What’s your plan? This is the time to deal with it because there are no distractions now. It’s my plan to get you out of your head and give you accountability.

I never care about what level you’re at. I care that you listen, you take action and you get your “wins”. When you get your “wins’ it feels amazing. I’ve heard all the excuses – I’ve made half of them. But it’s not about me. Most people have never had anyone in their corner. I want to speak to your soul and move you straightaway.

What Jay promises is a guaranteed success for you and your business. His methods are targeted at booking more clients, achieving greater financial opportunities, and delivering highly-impactful messages. To help, he’s offered free online motivational-speaking classes that emphasize support for COVID-19-affected individuals. Once you see what Jay can do, you’ll want to be a regular client, too.

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You’re itching to get back out on stage so you can impact millions! But hey – remember your stage isn’t only physical. You can now be on stage virtually. Want to be BOOKED out on virtual stages globally? I’ve made my chess move, it’s your turn. DM me and we can set up a call and make that happen for you! – Your Success Wingman

Contact Jay Jay by following this link

Photos, Jeff Civillico, Win-Win Entertainment, Jay Jay