For two months, Clique Hospitality founder Andy Masi spent time thinking about what his restaurants and bars would look like when they reopened. Since March 17, when Gov. Steve Sisolak closed all nonessential businesses — including casinos — to prevent the spread of COVID-19, his restaurants and bars sat idle. All sit inside a casino, whether it’s Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar at Red Rock Resort, Borracha Mexican Cantina and Bottiglia Cucina Enoteca at Green Valley Ranch Resort, The Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails and Clique Bar & Lounge at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Greene St. Kitchen and Side Piece at the Palms, The Still at the Mirage.
While the past 60-some days seem slow on the outside, inside Masi and his team have been working on what the restaurants and lounges would look like once they’re permitted to reopen.
The real action started when Masi got a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the coronavirus pandemic. Those funds helped him bring back about 100 full-time staff who were furloughed on April 27 to start work on changing everything from the way the menus look to spacing out tables at his restaurants. Part-time staff will return when the restaurants reopen.
“There are thousands questions that go into it,” Masi says of reopening. ”That’s kind of what we’re working on now is figuring out what does a post-COVID world look like? I think that’s kind of the question every restaurateur, or bar or casino operator has right now.”
On May 15, the Nevada Gaming Control Board allowed restaurants inside casinos to reopen, as long as diners don’t walk on the casino floor to get inside or to bathrooms. Sisolak let restaurants reopen for dine-in service on May 9. So far, he hasn’t announced a date for casinos to reopen.
Masi’s been working with his staff to trim down menus and sanitize the restaurants, among other small details, like how glasses and silverware are polished and whether to offer takeout and delivery, and how that will look.
“I don’t think it’s going to be about making tons of profit anytime soon,” Masi says. “I think it’s going to be about getting people back to work.”
The social side of the business concerns Masi as well, with his restaurants meant to be more of an experience as well as a night out. “Our business though is really a social, fun, come in, eat, drink, have a blast. How does that look now?”
For delivery, Masi wants to keep it in house to avoid the 30 percent charge many outside delivery services charge. “I think takeout has to be added to every single restaurant in the city,” he says. “But it’s now as a matter of economics. These guys are charging like 30 percent,” he says of GrubHub, Postmates, and Uber Eats. “It’s not like you can give away 30 percent of my revenue and see what happens. You’re not going to raise prices. That’s another conversation for us in Las Vegas. We know the reality of the economy’s going to be like. In Las Vegas and Nevada, it’s going to be slow for a very long time. So it’s not like we’re going to charge 30 bucks for a burger because we have to pay Uber Eats.”
But while Masi predicts that the Las Vegas comeback may be slow with nearly 22 percent unemployment in Nevada, he does think the city’s resiliency will help.
“Where else can you get everything we have to offer? As a restaurateur, I’m going to still keep the product great and be smart about what we do. We’ll give [customers a] great experience. And, you know, this too shall pass.”