A Clark County commissioner and casino industry official are urging the state to increase capacity limits for live entertainment and public gatherings to 50 percent by March 1.
Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D) said she is presenting a plan to the state COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force on the proposed capacity increase. Under the plan, capacity limits would increase from 25 to 50 percent for live entertainment and public gatherings, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
“What I will tell you is we will recommend that we start moving toward the 50 percent by March 1, if not sooner,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s always great when we can go sooner. But I don’t like to over-promise to folks, because I don’t have the magic pen.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has mandated that casinos, bars and other businesses operate at 25 percent of capacity. Public gatherings and live entertainment also are limited to 25 percent capacity, with no more than 50 people. The governor put this “pause” into effect until Feb. 12.
Sisolak imposed these restrictions in November as COVID-19 cases began to spike.
Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine told the newspaper that businesses find it challenging to operate under strict capacity limits. The association is the casino industry’s lobbying arm.
The speed of Las Vegas’ recovery and bringing back tens of thousands of jobs depend on how soon we can hold gatherings and events,” she said. “It’s very challenging to run a business at 25-percent occupancy, which is why we’re hopeful we can return to 50 percent very soon.”
Valentine said different stakeholders have been working on the plan to “bring back the meetings and events business as soon as practical, particularly due to the recent developments like favorable health data, the vaccine distribution, and advancements in testing.”
Valentine said those working on the proposal want to give event organizers “predictability.”
“They require extensive planning, and they need to understand what requirements will be in place and when, so they can budget and prepare,” she told the newspaper. “As long as this business remains on hold, our economy will struggle.”
With the onset of coronavirus cases in March, Sisolak ordered casinos to close statewide. After a 78-day shutdown, he allowed casinos to reopen June 4 with capacity restrictions and safety measures in place.
However, without conventions and large special events, tourism has been slow to recover in the Las Vegas Valley. This is especially true during the middle of the week. Conventions are seen as important in filling up hotel rooms during the midweek days.
A sharp decline in air travel has had a negative impact on tourism in Las Vegas. Compared to 2019, McCarran International Airport has seen 29 million fewer departing and arriving passengers during the pandemic.
As a result of low hotel room occupancy rates, some resorts on the Strip have shut down all or part of their operations during the middle of the week.
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