When Strip casino resorts were permitted to reopen in early June, several operators reported a slight surprise during those first few summer weekends. A greater number of locals were taking advantage of less-crowded resorts, visiting hotels for staycations or just to eat at restaurants or play in casinos.
That mini-trend is less of a surprise at the Cosmopolitan, a Strip destination that has maintained a consistently strong relationship with Las Vegans since it opened in December 2010.
“People [who live here] don’t always visit the Strip, but since we’ve reopened, our local business has been strong,” says Cosmopolitan General Manager and Chief Strategy Officer Patrick Nichols. “Our restaurant collection, in particular, has generated the most local traffic. I think people are tired of cooking at home and also want to get out for some fine dining.”
More than a dozen casino resorts along the city’s main tourism corridor reopened as soon as possible on June 4, but only a few did so with the majority of their restaurants and amenities ready for business. Most properties have taken a gradual approach to getting back to normalcy; the Cosmopolitan has been doing things differently, which has always been its core marketing message.
“We found it to be absolutely necessary for the longevity of the resort and the city,” Nichols says. “I heard a quote a long time ago, and I still have it posted on my bulletin board: ‘It’s a luxury to have normalcy when you travel.’ That’s never been more true than now. Everyone’s lives have been uprooted in some sort of way, so to go to a resort you’ve traveled to a number of times and have a relatively normal experience, that’s something you remember, and it’s very important to us.”
The only bar or restaurant that hasn’t yet returned to business is Ghost Donkey, a tiny mezcal and nachos bar hidden in the second-floor Block 16 Urban Food Hall. Local favorites like lunchtime hot spot Estiatorio Milos, STK and Scarpetta are enjoying strong business from locals and Vegas visitors, Nichols says, and the resort has been able to offer a significant dose of live entertainment while most Vegas shows are still suspended at restaurant Rose. Rabbit. Lie. and clubby bar the Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails.
“We’ve tried as hard as possible to keep those [entertainment] experiences alive where we can. The Dive-In Movies [series] drives in lots of locals as well,” he says of the return of the summertime program that broadcasts films on the Cosmopolitan’s 60-foot marquee for viewing from the rooftop pool deck.
“The restrictions have yielded some interesting results and have forced us to find ways to do things that we haven’t previously considered,” Nichols continues. “All the lounges are taking reservations and doing hosted seating, which creates a more intimate experience. The feedback has been very positive.”
No matter where its customers are coming from, the ability to maintain pre-pandemic experiences has been especially crucial for the Cosmopolitan, which has been the subject of several media reports and viral social media posts that point to the Las Vegas Strip as a potentially unsafe destination during the COVID crisis.
Los Angeles Times reporter Arash Markazi posted a video of its crowded casino that he shot on June 5, the first Friday night the Strip was back in business, and it exploded online. Last week, the Daily Beast reported that several anonymous workers are concerned their employer isn’t doing enough to protect them from the virus in an article that essentially claims the Cosmopolitan isn’t enforcing its extensive safety protocols.
Nichols says such reports can be “frustrating, and don’t speak to our extensive efforts in prioritizing guest and employee health and safety,” when authors haven’t visited Las Vegas since the pandemic closed the Strip. “Both the Cosmopolitan and our city of Las Vegas are doing all we can to try and keep the thousands of employees and visitors safe. I welcome them to come and visit to take a firsthand look at what our practices are.”