Governor Sisolak Warns Worst Is Yet To Come


Brent Holmes/Desert Companion

The sidewalk in front of the Bellagio Hotel-Casino Thursday, March 17, 2020.

As of noon today, Las Vegas should look pretty much like a modern-day ghost town.

On Tuesday, Governor Steve Sisolak ordered casinos to close and strongly suggested all other non-essential businesses close.

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When asked what the penalty would be for businesses if they don’t close, he said it’s a matter of life and death.

“I don’t know if I can make this any clearer," Sisolak told reporters at a news conference, "If people are looking for a loophole. This is affecting lives … People are dying. Every day that is delayed here, I’m losing. A dozen people on the back end are going to die as a result of this. It’s incumbent upon the citizens of this state to take this seriously.”

Mary Beth Sewald is the president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. She spoke with the governor before he made the announcement about who would be impacted.

She said the steps outlined by Gov. Sisolak are necessary to help protect the entire state.

"It's actually kind of calming, I think, in some ways that the governor came out and is asking people to just play it safe," she said, "We need calming leadership right and to give people confidence."

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Sewald said she got a lot of calls from businesses about whether they would be considered essential. She said the governor's office advised that business services may not have to close if they're not interacting a lot with the public face to face.

But she said the governor's office will be sending out more guidelines Wednesday afternoon.  

One thing that was clear was restaurants that could provide curbside pickup and delivery would stay open.

James Trees is the owner and executive chef at Esther's Kitchen in downtown Las Vegas. 

He said his biggest problem is he doesn't know how long he'll have to close his doors. He would like to see a sales tax holiday to help small businesses stay afloat.

Trees noted that he's filled out an application for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration disaster relief program but it can take six months for the loan to be processed.

Sewald disagreed. She was given reassurances that SBA loans would be processed within a few weeks. 

Another small business that closed its doors is Rebar on Main Street. Owner Derek Stonebarger said he was sad about closing but believed it was for the greater good. 

He plans to pay his employees their base pay for the next 30 days but he pointed out that most of his employees rely on tips.

Brenden Powers is the managing partner for Evel Pie and Golden Tiki. He planned on handing out free perishable food from his kitchen starting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday until it was gone. 

He encouraged other businesses that couldn't provide delivery or curbside service to do the same.

While small businesses are struggling to figure out how to survive, the closure of the valley's main economic engine is grabbing national headlines.

Gaming reporter Howard Stutz said people shouldn't be too surprised by the governor's move because other casinos around the country had been closing their doors over the past few days.

He said it made better business sense to close down rather than stay open with no customers. 

The big question is what impact the closure will have. Stutz said the industry might look very different when the outbreak is under control.




Mary Beth Sewald, president/CEO, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce; James Trees, exec. chef/owner, Esther's Kitchen; Brenden Powers, managing partner, Evel Pie and Golden Tiki; Derek Stonebarger, owner, ReBar; Howard Stutz, executive editor, CDC Gaming Reports

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