In a tourism-heavy city like Las Vegas, the question hangs in the air whether resorts, bars, and restaurants will be forced to close to hinder the spread of COVID-19 — and whether government officials will recognize the impact the novel coronavirus is already having.
So far officials in Clark County and Las Vegas have not stepped in as they have in other U.S. states. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has not called for non-essential businesses to close, and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman does not plan to order a mandatory closure of non-essential businesses, she tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal, calling it “devastating” to the tourist dependent city.
“My hope is that the private industry rises to the top, that they’re allowed to stay open and take care of these families that are paycheck to paycheck,” she told the paper. “We really here in Las Vegas don’t compare ourselves to L.A. or New York because we are totally tourist-industry dependent.”
Meanwhile, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve mandated all bars, restaurants, gyms and other nonessential businesses close by Friday through April 5. Restaurants that offer takeout, as well as grocery stores and pharmacies, can remain open.
And despite the lack of an official statewide mandate, dozens of restaurants, as well as resorts along the Strip, have temporarily shuttered, causing an immediate effect on those businesses and their workers.
Restaurateur Elizabeth Blau, co-founder of the Las Vegas-based Women’s Hospitality Initiative, has started a petition aimed at Gov. Sisolak requesting unemployment benefits, tax credits for health benefits, and more assistance from the federal government to help the food and beverage community as it lays off employees and faces possible closings.
“Without immediate action taken by your office, we will not survive this crisis,” Blau writes.
The petition also requests loan abatements and the elimination of payroll and state sales taxes for restaurants and bars, “so we can form a long-term plan to operate our businesses and inform our employees they have a secure future.”
Blau, who had to close her restaurant Honey Salt to dining and only has curbside and takeout options now, says that official comments to avoid restaurants and bars have omitted protections for employees and businesses. “We’re not the casinos. We’re not the airlines. So it’s important that our voices are heard,” she says.
So far the petition has almost 600 signatures. Blau hoped for 50.
Blau’s petition is similar to those cropping up in other states. In Austin, a petition started by a distillery owner urges the State of Texas to cancel or delay mixed-beverage and sales taxes; one server in Austin started his own petition asking the City of Austin and Mayor Steve Adler to help service industry employees by adjusting their residential rents. In NYC, the New York City Hospitality Alliance and the New York State Restaurant Association called on government officials to grant extensions or suspensions of tax payments, enact rent subsidies, and consider at least 10 other business-saving measures.
“Las Vegas is a global culinary destination that is second to none, and we want it to stay that way,” Blau says.