Without any government mandate limiting gathering sizes, it has been up to companies’ own discretion how to handle concerns around COVID-19.
In Las Vegas, resorts including MGM Grand, Wynn and Venetian are taking action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, marking the first significant moves to address COVID-19 by the city’s entertainment industry, where there so far have been no government mandates to limit the size of gatherings. This has put the decision-making and liability on resorts, promoters and hospitality companies, causing an echo of frustration from the industry heard up and down the Strip.
On Friday morning (March 13), MGM Resorts announced all nightclub and dayclub operations have been temporarily suspended after an employee of Hakkasan Group’s Wet Republic pool club at MGM Grand was suspected to have contracted COVID-19, according to a memo to staff on Thursday obtained by Billboard. It is unknown whether that employee had contact with guests.
In a memo issued to employees, according to a source, Hakkasan Group’s human resources said the Southern Nevada Health District is investigating the suspected case of COVID-19 at Wet Republic. The employee is currently in self-quarantine and recovering at home.
“The safety and well-being of employees and guests is our top priority,” the memo reads. “Upon learning of the individual’s suspected infection, Hakkasan Group and MGM Resorts staff worked in coordination with the health district to implement MGM Resorts’ health and safety protocols. Professional cleaners with expertise in this area have deep cleaned, disinfected and sanitized Wet Republic as outlined in MGM Resorts’ health and safety protocols and procedures. We believe the exposure at Wet Republic has been limited. As a precaution we will continue to deep clean, sanitize and disinfect the venue as needed. The health district is leading the effort to identify and contact anyone in our area who has had prolonged close contact with the individual.”
Wet Republic opened for its 2020 season last week with shows by DJ Shift, Fergie DJ and Jeff Retro, and throughout the summer it is scheduled to feature a roster of talent including Cash Cash, Party Favor and Steve Aoki. Hakkasan Group also operates Hakkasan nightclub at MGM Grand, Jewel at Aria and Omnia at Caesars Palace.
Wynn Las Vegas has also temporarily halted nightclub operations and postponed its residency shows, including those by Lionel Richie (March 13 and 14) and Diana Ross (starting April 8) at the Encore Theater. Robbie Williams, who is scheduled for a March 24 return performance after selling out 16 shows in 2019, is expected to follow suit.
Wynn’s XS nightclub and Encore Beach Club have temporarily suspended operations going into the “Art of the Wild” weekend. That is one of Wynn Nightlife’s most highly anticipated events of the year and had planned to feature artists such as Rufus Du Sol, Guy Gerber and Nicole Moudaber. It will be rescheduled at a later date, sources say.
Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox issued a statement to the Las Vegas team on March 12 that called for the temporary cancellation of all “entertainment gatherings,” including buffets, nightclubs and theaters in Las Vegas and Boston, where the company also runs the Encore Boston Harbor luxury resort and casino. He also stated that full-time employees who work in those spaces would continue to be paid and the casinos will begin using “noninvasive thermal cameras” at the entrances to test people’s temperatures, as well as ensuring appropriate distancing of guests at gaming tables and dining tables.
Las Vegas events draw more than 40 million people to the city annually and include residencies and touring shows, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, the NFL Draft and more.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued a declaration of emergency in a press conference Thursday. In Nevada, 17 total cases have been identified related to the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Live Nation and AEG announced they would be suspending touring shows domestically and abroad. The NCAA also canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament, which was in progress at the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena with 11 games scheduled through the weekend.
Drai’s Nightclub and Dayclub at The Cromwell, operated by Caesars, has decided to temporarily suspend operations through the weekend and will continue to evaluate business operations. Caesars Entertainment has yet to announce any other changes to its nightlife, pools or entertainment offerings at its nine resorts.
Tao Group, operators of Beauty & Essex restaurant and Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub in The Cosmopolitan and Tao restaurant and nightclub in The Venetian, announced partial closures on Friday. “Out of an abundance of caution, and following guidelines of public officials, Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub and TAO Nightclub will be temporarily closed, effective immediately. Additionally, LAVO’s Saturday Party Brunch and Sunday Endless Brunch are currently suspended. Beauty & Essex, LAVO and TAO restaurants remain open under normal operations,” the statement said. Tao Group also has venues in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Singapore and Sydney.
Also at The Cosmopolitan, effective Monday, March 16, select restaurants will temporarily close, including Red Plate, Wicked Spoon, Rose. Rabbit. Lie., Overlook Grill and Va Bene, while gatherings such as the Hoops & Hops basketball viewing event March 19 to 21 will no longer take place. The resort has also postponed Bill Burr on March 21, Brantley Gilbert on March 28, 95.5 The Bull’s All-Star Guitar Pull on April 2, SECH on April 4 and LETTERKENNY on April 18 until further notice.
In a statement, representatives said, “ While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, out of an abundance of caution we have made the decision to postpone large-scale entertainment events … in addition to temporarily suspending the operation of specific restaurant venues.”
According to box office inquiries, Live Nation’s residency shows, including Shania Twain at Zappos Theater in Planet Hollywood, Rod Stewart at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Chicago at The Venetian Theatre and Billy Idol at The Pearl at The Palms are all continuing without interruption. Live Nation’s Post Malone Runaway Tour, scheduled for Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena, has been postponed, and the Il Volo performance at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort has been canceled. Friday afternoon the Jonas Brothers took to their social media to let fans know they would be canceling their residency April 1–18 at Park MGM’s Park Theater. There was no mention of a reschedule.
Convention cancellations and scaling back of leisure travel have thrown resort occupancy into a tailspin. Sources say that MGM Resorts’ MGM Grand and Park MGM are at around 10–20% and Wynn is hovering around 30%. Normal numbers at this time of year are 80–100%.
Attendees at the first nights of 311’s three-day concert series at Park MGM, running Wednesday to Friday, say the casino, restaurants and theater were full of eager and happy music lovers. The group has yet to make any announcements regarding its Friday show.
Sources say the NFL draft, which is scheduled to take place April 23-25, is taking a wait-and-see approach to decide if the league will move forward with the festivities, planned for what was supposed to be one of the city’s biggest weekends of the year. The Raiders will move into their new home at Allegiant Stadium this summer. In a statement issued Monday, the NFL said, “our plans remain in place for the Draft. The NFL continues to closely monitor coronavirus developments and has been in contact with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NFL-NFLPA’s medical experts at the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON). We will continue to monitor and share guidance as the situation warrants and as our experts recommend.”
Las Vegas’ biggest live music event, Electric Daisy Carnival May 15-17, which draws around 150,000 people, will continue as planned, said founder Pasquale Rotella in an Instagram post on Thursday.
Heading into the weekend, casinos are “not as busy as a normal Friday, but not dead,” a source says. “People are gambling, restaurants are busy, there are definitely people still in the city.”