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Last call: Las Vegas to shut bars down again Friday night to thwart coronavirus spike

  • July 11, 2020

Heading to the newly reopened Las Vegas Strip?

The choice of places to grab a drink — and eat, if you have a large party — may shrink substantially beginning late Friday under new coronavirus restrictions announced by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak late Thursday.

Bars are returning to Phase 1 restrictions under the state’s reopening plans at 11:59 p.m., PDT meaning those without food have to close except for curbside pick up where applicable. Nevada is the latest in a series of states to pause or rollback reopening plans.

Restaurants must close their bar areas, even if they have tabletop video gaming machines, and can no longer serve parties larger than six people inside. Restaurants can still serve alcohol but for now, you can’t grab a drink at the bar while you wait for your table.

“We know that COVID-19 can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar,” Sisolak said in announcing the new measures. “In states where we have seen significant spikes, such as Arizona, Texas and Florida, they have all taken actions to roll back bars. Recently, Dr. Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious-disease expert, advised that congregating in bars poses a significant risk and is one of the most dangerous things people could do right now. We must heed his advice.”

Nevada is one of 19 states whose citizens being asked to quarantine upon arrival in the New York metro area and Chicago due to its recent surge in COVID-19 cases. According to the state health department, Nevada has more than 25,900 cases and 579 deaths. The Reno Gazette-Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported Friday that the state had more than 1,000 cases in the last 24 hours.

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Bellagio has doubled down on coronavirus precautions with partitions separating video poker machines, blackjack and poker tables.

It’s unclear how the restrictions will affect casino bar and restaurant operations, a staple of any visitor stay. Given the last-minute notice and Sisolak’s pledge to provide more details Friday, Las Vegas’ major hotel casinos say they are still working out the details.

“We first saw the new guidelines last night, and we are reviewing them this morning,” Caesars Entertainment spokesman Robert Jarrett said via e-mail.

 A big concern, of course: The new restrictions will likely spark trip cancellations as the tourism hotspot struggles to get back on its feet after a nearly three-month closure. Casino hotels only reopened five weeks ago.

The topic of closing the bars again came up Thursday night at The Bar at Times Square, a popular piano bar at New York-New York Hotel Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.  . A guest who was there told USA TODAY the piano player told visitors to “enjoy it while you can” since the bar would close Friday.

Asked by phone early Friday how the shutdown would affect guests at the luxe Bellagio, a customer service representative had to talk to a manager. She came back on the line and said the hotel is still awaiting clarification but added that visitors can still get drinks in the casino.

“Even though bars are closing, you can still have drinks while you’re playing (casino games),” she said. 

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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