Entertainment returning to the Las Vegas Strip

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Activity will soon resume on the Las Vegas Strip, as entertainment options expand.

Loosening COVID-19 capacity restrictions means some shows and nightlife options are coming back. Experts say this is a good sign, especially as Las Vegas continues to reel from the economic impact of the coronavirus. 

MGM Resorts International announced Wednesday that it will resume its 24-hour, seven days a week operations at three of its resorts on March 3.

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“As we begin to see positive signs around the public’s sentiment about traveling, coupled with important progress on the vaccination front and decreasing COVID-19 case numbers, bringing Mandalay Bay, Park MGM and The Mirage back to full-week operations is an important step for us,” said Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts’ CEO & President. “We remain optimistic about Las Vegas’ recovery and our ability to bring employees back to work as business volumes allow us to do so.”

According to a news release from MGM, the properties are following a “Seven-Point Safety Plan” which involves a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Analysts say closures on the Strip have cost Vegas tens of billions of dollars over the past year.

MGM Resorts International also announced that Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, which was open in a smaller venue to seat 50 people, will now move upstairs at the MGM Grand to the studio ballroom, across from Grand Garden Arena. It will seat 100 people. That starts Thursday, Feb. 18. 

Thunder Down Under at Excalibur is also expanding from 50 to 100 seats. The show “Fantasy” will reopen Friday, Feb. 19, at the Luxor and seat 100 people.

On the social scene, Hakkasan Group announced it is set to reopen a handful of options. According to a press release, the OMNIA nightclub at Caesars Palace “will resume operations of the terrace area of the venue as a lounge” on March 5. OMNIA Las Vegas will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30 p.m. until late. 

Hakkasan Group also says the Wet Republic Ultra Pool at MGM Grand and the Liquid Pool Lounge at ARIA will also reopen in March. Health and safety protocols will be put in place, including touchless menu systems, social distancing and rigorous cleaning plans.

“I think it’s about rebuilding,” said Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst at Applied Analysis.

Aguero, an expert on Las Vegas hospitality and tourism, says that with entertainment and nightlife starting back up, the Vegas economy will start to turn a corner. 

But it will still be a process.

“It’s not going to be uniform,” Aguero said. “It’s not going to be symmetrical. Certain things are going to open. There may even be some trial and failure that takes place, but what’s critically important is that things are opening.”

Aguero expects more people to visit Las Vegas over the summer, and he also expects some conventions to return by the fall. He notes that this all ultimately depends on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Comedian Carrot Top is thrilled to be having an in-person audience again and is looking forward to entertaining even more people in the future. He remains confident that Vegas can beat this virus.

“I will comb my hair the night of the show, I promise,” Carrot Top said. “We’re going to tackle it; we’re going to do it.”

On March 15, capacity for most businesses and activities is set to increase to 50%. 

So, this is the big question: when will things get back to normal? Aguero says he still does not expect that to happen for another 12 to 18 months — and maybe even longer than that.

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