The coronavirus lockdown has caused widespread disruption to industries across the world, hitting the entertainment and hospitality industry particularly hard due to government-imposed restrictions.

But as global lockdowns are gradually easing, the world is slowly returning to a new form of normal. CasinoBeats spoke with Stephen Thayer, vice president and general manager of The Strat, to discuss some of the challenges associated with the lockdown period, and how the Las Vegas casino would be returning to normality.

CasinoBeats: How difficult was navigating the enforced closure period? Particularly with it not first being clear when any sense of normality would be resumed?

Stephen Thayer: It couldn’t have come at a worse time – not just for us at The Strat, but for all of us in Las Vegas. March, April and May are typically our strongest months of the year, and we were projecting a record-breaking spring with the addition of the NFL Draft. We had just finished a large-scale renovation project at The Strat, which had led to an uptick in visitor traffic to the property.

Without any clarity early on about when we might be able to reopen, our focus was on the longevity of the company. In addition to taking measures to protect The Strat’s financial health, our focus during much of the shutdown was on developing health and safety measures for our guests and team.

CasinoBeats: Related to the previous question, The Strat has undertaken a multitude of changes and adaptations to adhere to health and safety protocols to reopen the doors, was it difficult to have all of these implemented before June 4?

ST: While we didn’t know how long the shutdown would last, we knew that there would be widespread changes to operations when we did reopen. We used that time to develop health and safety protocols and to prepare for our reopening – whenever that would be.

Those protocols are outlined in our “Golden Commitment” to team members and guests, a policy that we have developed for Golden Entertainments casinos and taverns. Our preparations and training went smoothly, so when it came time to reopen, our team was ready. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our team.

Not only are they doing an incredible job of maintaining our health and safety standards, but they’re also delivering excellent customer service. There is a very happy, positive feeling here on property – I think we are all just happy to be here.

CasinoBeats: Bill Miller commented on Las Vegas reopening as ‘a pivotal moment in our recovery,’ what are your thoughts on this?

ST: I couldn’t agree more. We need to instill trust in our visitors so they feel safe coming to Las Vegas. We want our visitors to know that we are working hard to provide a healthy environment so they can focus on having fun.

CasinoBeats: How has the footfall been since reopening? When do you envisage that some of those measures outlined could potentially be relaxed?

ST: We have seen greater footfall than we anticipated and we are hopeful that it will continue to get better as more restrictions are lifted. Per state guidelines, we are currently operating at 50 per cent capacity of the entire property.

CasinoBeats: At the turn of the year the property completed its $100m renovation strategy, how will this help elevate The Strat in the eyes of punters as they return to the region over the coming weeks and months?

ST: We have the advantage of providing entertainment as part of phase 1 through our Observation Deck and thrill rides. For many people, visiting the top of our tower is something they plan to do while in Las Vegas. The upgrades we have made to the iconic property ensure that visitors are far more likely to stay here for lunch, dinner or to play in the casino while they’re here. Instead of staying here for the cheap rooms and then heading elsewhere, our guests are spending a larger share of their time in Las Vegas with us.

Renovations and improvements can be found throughout the hotel, casino and tower. Our new “Elevate” room series includes a complete remodel of 574 rooms with new décor, furniture and amenities. A full remodel of Top of the World, our award winning 360-degree rotating restaurant, includes new Kinon tables, reupholstered furniture and top-of-the-line place settings, including Messermeister steak knives.

An entirely new food menu features steaks and seafood complemented by fresh, seasonal ingredients. We serve craft cocktails and nearly 300 wines, from hard-to-find, boutique selections to some of the world’s most celebrated wines.

Strat Café, our new 24-hour restaurant, serves elevated comfort cuisine in a reimagined diner setting. We have just brought in local favourite, PT’s Wings and Sports, where we serve burgers, barbecue and craft beers, plus onsite betting.