Photo Credit: Erik Kabik, MGM Resorts International, Sam Abrams, Station Casinos, Caesars Entertainment and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Las Vegas has been known for decades as the culinary and entertainment capital of the world. The famed neon lights beckon visitors from all over the globe to come to the celebrated Strip and indulge in leisure, gaming and an all-star lineup of celebrity chefs and world-class dining venues. Although there was a pause, now with the return of restaurants once again open for dine-in and after the state entered Phase Two allowing casinos to reopen on June 4, several casinos throughout the Valley and on the Vegas Strip are again beckoning to us to experience the magnificence of what Las Vegas has to offer. 

Checking In and Checking Out The Venetian

Gradually, the Strip hotels are awakening, again welcoming guests back with great anticipation. Many foresee the mandated changes will be met with widespread approval. The Venetian Resort opened on the first day, staff fully trained on new protocols covering everything from housekeeping, gaming and its many restaurants, bars, lounges and pools. Being familiar with this iconic property we embarked on our own historic reopening expedition. 

It did not take long to notice one major change as you enter the resort from the parking garage: thermal cameras. After a quick walk past the cameras and a green light from security it was time to check in. The main lobby is sparkling clean, complete with a singing gondolier giving us a sense of normalcy in this trying time. 

After a somewhat effortless “contactless” check in with masks and a plexiglass barrier between us and the concierge, we arrived in our immaculate suite complete with our own Personal Protective Equipment kit. As a requirement, face masks must be worn while visiting the hotel. Eagerly, we donned our swimwear to check out the pool and its amenities. The four sparkling pools comprise a two-acre space, offering a cool respite from Las Vegas’ triple digit heat and of course refreshing libations are available to also help squelch the heat. Looking over the vast pool area, we could not help but be impressed at the constant cleaning of all public contact surfaces by the pool team members. The area had been recently renovated with a splash pad for those traveling with small children while appropriately spaced pool ledge loungers, daybeds and lounge chairs beckon sun worshippers. After several thirst quenching cocktails and a refreshing swim, it was time for our highly anticipated first meal on the Strip in several months. 

Nightlife and cocktails are back at The Venetian with the bars of The Cocktail Collective. The Dorsey Cocktail Bar, Rosina Cocktail Lounge and Electra Cocktail Club join to make the unique concept of The Cocktail Collective and these three lounges serve brilliantly crafted cocktails and curated music. 

Celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia wasted no time in reopening her namesake CHICA, located on Restaurant Row in The Venetian Resort. Chef de Cuisine Arron Cappello is at the helm creating bold, flavorful dishes from all over Latin America. “It’s great to be back in the kitchen creating new dishes that keep the menu fresh and exciting with Chef Lorena,” Cappello said. General Manager Adam Norotsky added, “It feels fantastic to get back to work. We are at 50% capacity and a smaller menu for now. The shutdown gave us time to reconfigure the physical room as well as work on new culinary items, signature cocktails, bigger wine list and of course staff training on the new protocols.”

More Casino Openings

At the Wynn and Encore resort guests can enjoy the many bars, restaurants and lounges along with three shopping esplanades, five pools, two salons and spas and the golf courses at both Wynn and Encore. In addition, both casinos are open for guests’ enjoyment with spacing protocols and enhanced cleaning measures are in place. Costa Di Mare, Wing Lei, La Cave and Cipriani along with most of the resort’s acclaimed fine dining venues are open for service. For buffet lovers, the Wynn’s Buffet has reopened with extensive dinner options including 90 savory items in seven categories including a myriad of salads, soups and sushi, along with King crab legs, beer-braised mussels, baked oysters and chilled seafood; Mediterranean and Far East Flavors; carved specialties and charcuterie; and an extensive dessert selection. In this new buffet set-up you never leave your seat and order each dish from your server. Reservations are required but walk-ups can be added to a wait list by scanning a QR code.

The MGM properties are opening in stages. First to open were Bellagio, MGM Grand and New York-New York, followed by Excalibur, Luxor and The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay Place and opening in early July were Aria, Mandalay Bay and Four Seasons Las Vegas. Popular restaurants that have reopened include Mayfair Supper Club at Bellagio, Border Grill at Mandalay Bay and Bardot Brasserie at Aria. MGM Resorts Acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle said, “We are very pleased by the enthusiasm we are seeing from guests ready to come back to Las Vegas. As business demand increases, we are able to open additional properties and bring more of our employees back to work. Getting people back to work coupled with providing a safer environment for our employees and our guests are our top priorities.”

Caesars Resorts are opening a few at a time as well, beginning with the iconic Caesars Palace and Flamingo Las Vegas, and followed by Paris Las Vegas, Harrah’s, Nobu Hotel and The Linq. “Reopening Las Vegas in a phased approach will be a significant milestone for Caesars Entertainment as the country continues to emerge from this necessary closure period,” said Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “We are excited to welcome guests and our employees back to our properties. We are grateful for the efforts of those on the front lines addressing this public health emergency.”

Station Casinos, the largest group of locals casinos in Southern Nevada located in all quadrants of the Valley, reopened several of its properties to the delight of Las Vegans eager to return. While not all have reopened, several have, including Red Rock, Green Valley Ranch, Santa Fe Station, Boulder Station, Palace Station, Sunset Station and all of their Wildfire division properties again opening their doors for guests to enjoy gaming and its collection of restaurants, such as T-Bones Chophouse at Red Rock, Hank’s at Green Valley Ranch and Leticia’s Cocina at Santa Fe Station. 

New Restaurants Debut

Even though the lockdown has been tough on the industry, some new restaurants have arrived on the scene. Spritz, a 50 Eggs group concept located on The Venetian pool deck, opened to the delight of its guests, serving items such as egg white frittata, vegan coconut granola bowl, Baja breakfast burrito and truffle burger, which can be enjoyed at the restaurant, in your cabana or at your poolside seat.

The much-awaited contemporary Mexican restaurant and lounge Elio, has opened at Wynn to eager diners who have long anticipated the culinary brilliance of Chef Daniela Soto-Innes, Enrique Olvera and Santiago Perez.

Newly opened on July 2 is the much-anticipated Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse at the Flamingo, named for the two business partners who famously opened the first resort-style hotel on the Strip back in 1946. The classic steakhouse takes notes from the past and adds elevated twists, with a bakery façade, dry aged meat cooler, centerpiece bar and lounge, raw bar, three private dining rooms, ornate dining room and a hidden speakeasy. The kitchen is helmed by the winner of the Food Network competition series, Vegas Chef Prizefight Lamar Moore, and Executive Chef Honorio Mecinas (formerly at Old Homestead at Caesars Palace, who brings with him more than 15 years of Las Vegas Strip experience). The menu includes a variety of shellfish and seafood and prime, wet-aged and dry-aged prime steaks and imported wagyu. 

Yet another new opening, debuting on July 10 at Red Rock, will be Chef Marc Vetri’s pop-up Osteria Fiorella, taking over the kitchen inside Terra Rossa and serving an expanded version of his popular Philly pasta bar Fiorella and his expressions of elevated Northern Italian cuisine. The menu includes Neapolitan pizza, wood-grilled meats and fish, pastas and a signature dish: Sal’s meatballs with homemade ricotta. 

Welcome Back!

We all join in welcoming both our out of town visitors and locals back to the famed Vegas Strip and locals casinos, and the fact that self-parking is free at the aforementioned properties is a further enticement to return. Furthermore, our city has shown time and time again its resilience and ability to bounce back after facing adversity, and this time will be
no different.