Las Vegas is a premier nightlife and tourism destination, and coronavirus has already taken a massive toll on both industries.
The massive nightclubs in Las Vegas, held up as halo concepts and properties for the rest of the industry, are located in casinos and hotels. Last week, Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all casinos and gambling operations throughout the entire state of Nevada.
That order, therefore, closed all bars, restaurants and nightclubs located inside casinos. The devastating impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic and Governor Sisolak’s “stay-at-home” order on Las Vegas nightlife and restaurants was laid bare less than a week later.
On Friday, March 20, Hakkasan Group laid off their entire Las Vegas workforce, save senior management—1,600 hourly workers found themselves unemployed in an instant. It has been reported that those laid off will retain the benefit coverage through the end of this month, will receive severance pay, and are eligible for unemployment benefits.
However, adding an additional 1,600 new unemployment claims is sure to strain an already overwhelmed system. A total of 6,536 new unemployment claims were filed the week ending March 14 in Nevada, the largest weekly percentage spike in the state in more than 30 years.
If the hourly workforce number seems high, consider that Hakkasan Group operates three nightclubs (Hakkasan inside MGM Grand, Omnia inside Caesars Palace and Jewel inside ARIA), two dayclubs (Wet Republic MGM Grand and Liquid Pool inside ARIA), one arcade bar (Level Up inside MGM Grand), and two restaurants (Hakkasan Restaurant inside MGM Grand and Searsucker inside Caesars Palace).
Hakkasan Group represents just one nightlife and restaurant workforce in Las Vegas. TAO Group has announced they've laid off their hourly venue staff members temporarily. In Las Vegas, the group operates several nightclubs, restaurants and bars: TAO Asian Bistro and TAO Nightclub inside The Venetian, Marquee Nightclub and Marquee Dayclub inside The Cosmopolitan, LAVO Italian Restaurant inside The Palazzo, and Beauty & Essex inside The Cosmopolitan.
The city of Las Vegas and state of Nevada rely on the hospitality industry to drive its multi-billion-dollar tourism industry. These layoffs paint a picture of how desperate this situation is for the city and, as the industry standard for nightlife and dayclubs, for the industry overall.
This is to say nothing of the number of casino and hotel workers in Las Vegas: Nearly one-third of commercial casino workers in the United States are located in Nevada. MGM Resorts International has announced a donation of $1 million to its employee emergency fund, provides relief to full-time, on-call, separated, laid off, and furloughed employees.
Some have criticized bar, restaurant and nightclub employers big and small, corporate and independent, for laying off their teams. However, with traffic reducing by 60 percent or more for some venues before mandated closures, the difficult decision to lay off workers allowed them to file unemployment claims sooner rather than later.
Hakkasan Group chose to lay off 1,600 employees, offering severance pay, benefits through the end of the month, and eligibility for unemployment benefits. Nationwide, our industry has experienced layoffs to the tune of seven million hard-working hospitality professionals, and we’re expected to see a loss of more than $200 billion in revenue from bar and restaurant closures over the course of the next several months.
Simply put, we need help.
The numbers are staggering, making the need for our government provide federal aid and protect hospitality professionals even starkly evident. Everyone in the industry should set aside the three to ten minutes it takes to contact their state representatives and senators.
Bobby Heugel has drafted a powerful letter that can be sent to government officials linked in his Instagram bio. Click here to check it out. I sent it via Resistbot, a chatbot that made contacting the officials in my state—Nevada—incredibly simple. The whole process took me less than ten minutes.
We talk a lot about having one another’s backs in this business, about unifying our voices. It’s time to do more than talk.