Coronavirus Hysteria Hits Las Vegas and Everything is Ruined

We haven’t been posting to our blog much lately, and it’s because we’re shell-shocked.

Why? Right now in Las Vegas, the message on those responsible gaming brochures in casinos has never been more relevant: “When the fun stops.”

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Las Vegas is in the throes of a full-fledged crisis: Coronavirus, and its associated hysteria, have caused major conventions to cancel and many leisure travelers to bail on visits, sending hotel occupancy into a tailspin, and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

mother nature

Yeah, we said it.

While there have been just 18 confirmed (“presumptive positive”) cases of coronavirus in Las Vegas, it’s hard to adequately describe the impact that news has had on casinos, casino employees and innumerable related businesses.

In a word, devastating.

Many Strip resorts have closed (or plan to close) restaurants (buffets were the first to go), spas, nightclubs and pools. As mentioned, conventions have cancelled to the tune of tens of thousands of room nights.

Cirque du Soleil has temporarily suspended all its Vegas shows, and Caesars Entertainment is expected to announce the same for its shows.

The avalanche of bad news has come fast and furious, online and off.

We’ve tried to keep it light to provide some levity and perspective, but there are few bright spots at the moment.

Howard Hughes

If you don’t get it, you’re not Vegas enough.

There’s too much news, changing too quickly, to keep up with it all or chronicle it here. You’re better off hitting Twitter for the rapidly-changing news.

Opinions vary widely about whether the response to the coronavirus is commensurate with the threat (we lean strongly toward no), but there can be no disagreement this is a Las Vegas we’ve never seen before, nor did anyone imagine we’d ever see.

Las Vegas has proven itself to be resilient following tragedies like 9/11, the mass shooting of Oct. 1, 2017 and 2008 financial crisis.

Knowing Vegas will bounce back doesn’t make what’s happening any less startling or distressing, though. When you love something as much as we love Las Vegas, the heartbreak is all the more devastating.

Our crystal ball is typically pretty reliable, but at the moment, even we can’t foresee what’s next for Sin City. Literally nobody could’ve predicted hotels on the Las Vegas Strip would have occupancy rates of 10% and less. The unimaginable has become reality.

Las Vegas

Welcome to the daily cavalcade of WTF.

Optimism demands we believe the coronavirus will pass as the flu season always does, but the affect of the scare will linger much longer, financially and otherwise.

The most recent and alarming specter in this saga is the potential for Las Vegas casinos to close entirely. Which is a sentence we never thought we’d type, even after seeing the casinos in Macau, China and elsewhere shuttered. (Update below.)

Our best goes out to those affected by this confounding, surreal mess, and they are legion.

Here’s to Vegas weathering this storm as it has so many others, and let’s hope the dramatic steps being taken are worth the cost and achieve the desired results.

Update (3/15/20): Wynn and Encore have announced they’ll close temporarily. The resorts will close April 17 at 6:00 p.m. The closure is expected to last two weeks.

Wynn Encore closing

Gut punch number infinity.

We’re hearing these won’t be the only casino closures, so check back for updates.

Update (3/15/20): MGM Resorts has announced it will close its Las Vegas resorts as of midnight, March 16, 2020.

MGM Resorts closed

The surrealness is real.

Update (3/16/20): The Cosmopolitan will be temporarily closed through March 31, 2020.

Cosmo closing

Can we be done with this nightmare, already? Thanks.

Update (3/17/20): The Venetian and Palazzo are closing until at least April 1, 2020.

Cirque’s Financial and Critical Disaster “R.U.N.” to Close at Luxor

“R.U.N.” at Luxor has confirmed what we’ve been saying for months, the show will soon be put out of its misery. Cirque du Soleil says it will close for good on March 8, 2020. It opened October 24, 2019.

It’s hard to overstate the level of WTF associated with this doomed-from-day-one show.

“R.U.N.” was savaged in online reviews and cost $62 million (some say it was substantially more). Our sources say the show has been losing about $1.6 million a month for its four-month run.

Not only was this the biggest financial disaster in the history of Las Vegas entertainment, “R.U.N.” also had the shortest run of any Cirque show in Vegas history.

RUN

“R.U.N.” made dumpster fires cringe.

“R.U.N.” billed itself as “a living, breathing graphic novel that’s non-stop tire-peeling, fist-flinging and double-crossing action including combat stunts, fast-paced car chases, cutting-edge technology and innovative multimedia.”

While we obviously feel for the performers who will lose their jobs when the show closes, we have issues with the bullshittery the show tried to pull by encouraging (and possibly paying) people to post glowing reviews to try and stem the avalanche of posts trying to steer people away from this baffling misfire.

Many of the fake reviews used approved talking points, many along the lines of “People only hate this show because it’s not a typical Cirque show.”

This delusional assertion was just one of many gross miscalculations made by the show’s producers and creative team.

The only “confusion” about “R.U.N.” was audience members expecting an entertaining show and, instead, getting one with a bewildering plot, graphic sadism, poorly-executed fight scenes and excruciatingly loud music.

Or, as reviewer Chris G. put it so eloquently on TripAdvisor, “Makes you embarrassed to be human.” Honorable mention to Troyl H. who wrote, “Getting to leave is the highlight.”

“R.U.N.” was so bad, we hated it and never even saw it. Here’s a look.

Among the missteps was having feature film director Robert Rodriguez write it. Robert Rodriguez, of course, is known for his Writers Guild Award-winning scripts for movies like “Machete,” “Machete Kills” and the upcoming “Machete Kills in Space.” Oh, and “Spy Kids.”

The show’s director was Michael Schwandt, and the performance and action designer was Rob Bollinger.

As the future of “R.U.N.” began to grow dim, we hear Cirque called in a new director to overhaul the show. The new director was out quickly, as even good directors can’t perform miracles with a fundamentally flawed concept.

As we reported in early February 2020, buzz from insiders was TPG Capital (majority owner of Cirque du Soleil) was out of patience and said it wouldn’t invest another dime. The show’s fate was sealed.

While Cirque has taken a massive financial hit from “R.U.N.,” the company continues to dominate the Las Vegas entertainment scene. We understand the average occupancy for Cirque shows across Las Vegas sits at about 70 percent, although that’s down from 80-plus percent a decade ago.

We hear the company makes upwards of $120 million a year from its Las Vegas shows alone.

RUN biker

Wheelies were popped, as were dreams.

Still, the financial damage from “R.U.N.” certainly won’t help the company’s extreme level of debt, which is rumored to be in excess of a billion dollars, leading to speculation the company could file for bankruptcy protection at some point.

Moody’s investor service reports Cirque has a “high level of discretionary borrowing, continued underperformance in several key areas previously targeted for growth as well as relative
stagnation of its existing core performing arts business.”

Moody’s adds, “We believe the company’s largely debt-funded expansion strategy could be unsustainable, resulting in financial strain on core operations and leaving minimal flexibility to address operating weaknesses when they arise.”

We love us some Cirque, but no more tire-peeling and double-crossing, please.

RUN closed

There’s no denying it was “unique.” With quotation marks. In case that wasn’t clear.

There’s no word on what might replace “R.U.N.” at Luxor, but a contender is a magic show called “The Illusionists.” The Broadway magic show recently bumped “R.U.N.” at a charity event at Luxor. It was awkward, but makes more sense in light of “R.U.N.” closing.

Best of luck to the intrepid performers and stunt persons who did their best to give “R.U.N.” a shot at success, and here’s hoping Cirque can lick its wounds and deliver more of the company’s distinctive brand of brilliance in the future to help purge the memory of “R.U.N.” from our collective memory.

Ventriloquist Terry Fator’s Show to Close at Mirage

Longtime Strip headliner Terry Fator is having the plug pulled on his Las Vegas show by July 2020.

Fator and his company, Puppet Boy Entertainment, got a six-month notice of termination via old-school letter from the Mirage on Jan. 30, 2020. That means his show is done by July 30, 2020, although we trust he can bail sooner if he chooses.

Terry Fator

Props to Terry Fator for succeeding in a pursuit we’re pretty sure peaked in 1950.

The letter from Mirage said it’s exercising its right to end the show as the “average occupancy of the show is less than 75 percent of the seating capacity of the theater during any consecutive 12 month period.”

Harsh, bro.

Ventriloquist and “America’s Got Talent” winner Terry Fator started his run at Mirage in 2009.

Not surprisingly, at least to us, we were the first to share news Fator’s residency was in trouble and would soon come to an end. Although, honestly, we didn’t expect it to end with an unceremonious kick to the nads by Mirage. Oh, well, that’s show business.

Terry Fator Mirage

We don’t know everything, it just seems like it on the Internet.

Mirage is owned by MGM Resorts, at least for now. Rumor has it the casino is being shopped for a potential sale.

Fun Terry Fator facts: Terry Fator married his first wife Melinda in 1991. Melinda filed for divorce in 2009, it was finalized in 2010. One day after the divorce from Melinda was finalized, Fator married his assistant, Taylor. Fator proposed to his next wife, Angie, onstage in front of his then-wife, Taylor. He and Taylor divorced in 2015. He married Angie a few days later.

Terry Fator’s stint at Mirage surprised a lot of folks who expected a ventriloquist show on The Strip would be short-lived. Fator proved the skeptics wrong, but like a gambler’s lucky streak and wedded bliss, all good things must come to an end.

We totally typed that without moving our lips, by the way.

Resort Fees Jacked Up at Caesars Entertainment’s Four Mid-Strip Casinos

Somebody didn’t get the memo.

Despite a non-stop cavalcade of Las Vegas visitors griping about resort fees, and rightly so, Caesars Entertainment is bumping up resort fees at four mid-Strip casinos: Harrah’s, Flamingo, Linq and Bally’s.

resort fees

For shame, already.

The resort fees at these casinos will go up to $41.95 a night. That’s $37 a night (currently $35), plus tax. Yes, you’re taxed on resort fees, to make them extra fun.

The resort fee increase goes into effect on March 3, 2020.

Resort fees don’t apply to Diamond or Seven Stars loyalty club members, as that “perk” is included in their tier benefits.

No resort fees rally

That time Caesars Entertainment used “no resort fees” as a marketing tool. It seemed like a good idea a the time.

So, about that memo.

See, visitation to Las Vegas has been flat for two years now. This has been caused by a number of factors, including the legalization of gambling across the country.

What casinos don’t seem to get, though, is people are also not visiting because they’re angry. They’re frustrated by parking fees, CNF charges, venue fees and $20 minibar bottles of Fiji water (looking at you, Aria).

Accurate or not, to many, the perception of Las Vegas has shifted from a value destination to a nickel-and-diming destination.

Where there have been glimmers of hope, including Wynn and Encore eliminating paid parking, most casinos don’t seem to realize their short-term decisions will hurt Las Vegas in the long run.

It’s time to make Vegas a value again. It’s also time for us to share this, again.

make Vegas a value

We made this. It should be a thing.

There are still a lot of great values in Vegas, you just have to know where to look. Our totally unbiased recommendation is read more Las Vegas blogs.

 

Bellagio Conservatory’s Chinese New Year Display Sidesteps Asian Elephant in the Room

The Bellagio Conservatory has rolled out yet another crowd-pleaser with its Chinese New Year display.

Bellagio Conservatory

Flowering plants are also known as “angiosperms,” or as we refer to them, “Oh, grow up.”

This year’s Chinese New Year display was all the more impressive because it faced a couple of challenges.

First, it’s the Year of the Rat.

Designing a visually appealing display around a much-maligned rodent is no mean feat. The Conservatory’s horticulture team has, not surprisingly, delivered the goods with their usual flair.

Bellagio Conservatory

Las Vegas rats sometimes travel in packs. We’ll wait.

The other challenge, of course, is it’s not just the Year of the Rat. It’s the Year of the Coronavirus. Awkward.

The freak-out about the coronavirus (which originated in Wuhan, China) is ongoing, with some concerned we could be in the midst of a full-blown pandemic. We don’t entirely know what a pandemic is, but it doesn’t sound like something we’d want to find in our salad.

While others might be inclined to shy away from a Chinese-themed attraction at this juncture, Bellagio has defiantly decided to stay the course and do a top-notch Chinese New Year display, anyway. And we love them for it.

Because if Vegas stops doing spectacle, the bug has already won.

Bellagio Conservatory

If you can’t enjoy some whimsy, you’re probably just jaded.

The Conservatory not only manages to make us forget about the elephant(s) in the room, it pulls out all the stops by including just about every lucky symbol imaginable in the display.

There are lucky coins and birds and lions (no, they’re not dragons, rube) and lanterns and ding pots and jade medallions (shout-out to the pun in that last photo caption) and gold ingots and citrus trees and cherry blossoms and, yes, even koi fish.

The Bellagio Conservatory is currently home to about 75 koi.

Bellagio Conservatory

Koi are very shy. At least that’s what they want you to think.

Naturally, there are metric ass-ton of flowers. We counted 31,980, although the official news release says there are 32,000. It’s possible Bellagio rounded up.

It’s worth noting they said the 2019 Chinese New Year display used 32,000. Somebody in Bellagio’s P.R. department is clearly tired of counting flowers.

In 2018, it was 22,000 flowers. You know, inflation. Oh, and in 2017, it was 22,000. Starting to see a pattern here? We should probably start following these flower counts from the Bellagio Conservatory with “ish.”

Here are some stats from the aforementioned news release:

googie Number of team members involved in building the display: 115-ish.

googie Height of the jade medallions: 20 feet-ish.

googie Height of the aforementioned rat: 14 feet-ish.

googie Number of changing Chinese lanterns: 6-ish.

googie Number of items included in this list to see if you’re still paying attention: 1-ish.

googie Number of cherry blossom trees: 6-ish.

googie Number of rats in the display: 5-ish.

The Bellagio Conservatory always draws a great crowd, despite the fact most of those people don’t spend a dime at Bellagio.

That’s probably the third elephant in the room.

And while we’re on the subject, China’s zodiac chart really could use an elephant. They could dump the goat. Goats can be jerks.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Lion dance traditions are fascinating, so obviously would be out of place in this blog.

Not to be a buzzkill, but we recently reported Bellagio will have one fewer displays in 2020. Rather than the usual spring and summer displays, there will be a consolidated one with a Japanese theme.

The Chinese New Year display runs through March 14, 2020. The Japanese-themed “Japan Journey: Magical Kansai” runs from March 21 to Sep. 12, 2020.

Let us not dwell upon vermin or contagions or cost-cutting measures, though. Let us revel unabashedly in the boundless creativity of the geniuses at famed Bellagio Conservatory, photo gallerywise.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 106: Hard Rock’s Swan Song, Circa’s Restaurants and More

It’s been a minute, but we’re back with a shiny new episode of the Vital Vegas podcast. Sorry!

In this over-stuffed episode, we bid a fond farewell to Hard Rock casino. The resort closed on Feb. 3, 2020, and will soon become Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

We snagged an exclusive interview with Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President and CEO of JC Hospitality, co-owner of the resort, along with Richard Branson.

During our interview (at 13:05 in the podcast), you can actually the music go quiet at Hard Rock. The last song to play at Hard Rock closed: “Trouble” by Coldplay. That’s some badass Las Vegas trivia right there.

Hard Rock Las Vegas closed

We find ourselves between a Hard Rock and a Virgin place.

We also hear from Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and the under-construction Circa Las Vegas.

Stevens shares his thoughts about the new restaurants coming to his new downtown casino, set to open in Dec. 2020.

Circa

We already reserved a spot at the bar inside Barry’s Prime at Circa. We made the reservation with some construction guy walking by, but we figure that’s solid.

Because we procrastinated so long, the episode is jammed with not only exclusive scoop, as is our way, but also a cubic ass-ton of Las Vegas news.

We talk Elon Musk’s tunnel. The Sahara poker room. Battista’s Hole in the Wall. CEO Jim Murren’s upcoming departure from MGM Resorts. The end of “R.U.N.” at Luxor. Residency rumors at Resorts World. ATMs on casino table games. Nobu moves. Shark Reef’s virtual reality experience. Sex doll brothel problems. New shows. Wynn’s new convention center. Upgrades coming to The D. Chick-fil-A’s debut at Planet Hollywood. The Go-Go’s lip slip. Atari’s pipe dream. Bellagio Conservatory’s slimmer schedule. MSG Sphere’s budget bump.

All that and a controversial, hastily slapped-together “Listicle of the Week.”

It’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a podcast and less. Purge your earholes by taking a good, long listen!