Before Lotus of Siam reopens its popular Las Vegas eateries for business after the coronavirus shutdowns, there’s plenty of work to do.
First and foremost: Making sure the two area restaurants are disinfected up to federal standards and have social distancing measures in place to safely welcome patrons, manager Penny Chutima said.
That’s why they won’t be opening on Saturday, when Gov. Steve Sisolak has given the green light for nonessential business in Nevada to partially reopen following six weeks of coronavirus shutdowns. It’s the first phase in the gradual reopening of the Nevada economy, and something businesses — nail and hair salons, dispensaries, retail stores and others — weren’t expecting until May 15.
“I want to give our guests the peace of mind that they’ll be safe,” Chutima said.
Under the guidelines, restaurants, which have been limited to carry-out and delivery, can open for dine-in service with restrictions, including operating at a maximum 50% capacity and tables spaced at least 6 feet apart.
Lotus of Siam is in the process of changing the table layouts, going from a 60-table spread at the Sahara Avenue location to 26 tables to follow reopening orders. Chutima is also coordinating with the developer of the restaurant’s app to establish a feature where patrons with reservations will be given notice when to leave their house.
“This is all brand new to everyone in the restaurant industry, and we are pinpointing the best way to approach it,” Chutima said.
Lotus of Siam, which is hoping to open May 20, will initially have a pared-down, one-page menu, front and back. The menu will be disinfected after being touched by each patron. The group has about 100 employees, all of whom Chutima says will have to pass a health and sanitation awareness test before returning to work.
Restaurant workers will all wear face masks, per Sisolak’s order. The practice was already in place at the back of the house where employees wear masks and gloves, Chutima said.
Businesses can reopen at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, a window of about 30 hours from Sisolak’s announcement to stock supplies, bring back staff and sanitize. Some aren’t in a rush.
“It’s more important to be safe than it is to hurry,” said Ben Sabouri, owner of Founders Coffee. “We aren’t a flash-in-the-pan type of place. We have been around for a while and we want to stay around for the long term. We want to be careful and thoughtful of our guests and employees.”
The drive-thru at Founders Coffee remained opened during the shutdown, but the business has still endured a significant loss in revenue. Reopening the dining area, which seats about 60, would help ease the financial blow. But they will take a cautious approach moving forward — which could be for more than a year until a coronavirus vaccine is approved, Sabouri said.
“Unless you are McDonald’s or a fast food giant, and especially if you a locally owned business, there is a lot of challenge in this period,” he said.
Hair and nail salons can also open but by appointment only. Stylists must wear face coverings, and every other seat will be left vacant unless there are partitions separating work areas. Like restaurants, many won’t initially open this weekend.
Andrea Lipomi, owner of Feetish Spa Parlor, a boutique operation that performs pedicures, facials and other spa treatments, said, “I won’t feel safe opening without having access to high-quality, abundant PPE for myself and my clients.”
Retail stores will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, as determined by fire code. Essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies that were allowed to remain open without restrictions must also now operate at 50% capacity.
Marijuana dispensaries will also be allowed to resume in-store sales after submitting a plan to state regulators. The+Source dispensary plans to have its sales floor open Saturday, but regional general manager Brandon Wiegand says social distancing and sanitation protocols will be enforced. In-store displays, including flower samples, will not yet be available, he said.
“All in-store customers will be required to wear a mask in the store or we will have to refuse service,” Wiegand said.
While the financial impact of being closed has been substantial, business owners are determined to do their part in limiting the virus spread. After all, the last thing anyone wants is another shutdown.
“First and foremost, we have to protect our team and our guests. We need to understand what all the protocols are that the government is putting forth,” said Elizabeth Blau, co-owner of Honey Salt near Summerlin.
Owners anticipate the welcome sight of a rush of patrons.
Me Gusta Tacos opened both its Las Vegas locations last week for takeout orders. On Cinco de Mayo, they closed early after running out of food. Owner Chris Connors, having already partially ramped up, suspects many restaurants will need a few days to get up and running.
The list of chores is many. “We were already open, so it’s easier,” he said. “But with a restaurant that’s been completely closed, it would be extremely difficult to open in two days. You’d have to clean, place orders, hire staff back, get food in and prep it.”
Lola Pokorny, owner of Lola’s, a Louisiana-themed restaurant in downtown and in Summerlin, said, “We only had about 36 hours to get ready. That’s not enough time to pull employees back and do everything we’d need to do.”
The Summerlin location will open at 3 p.m. Tuesday; the downtown location will remained shuttered, she said.
“As an organization, we need to do it right because we only have one shot at this,” she said. “For us, it will be hard for our customer base because Southerners like to hug. We’re a hugging culture and that’s not something you can do right now.”
Sisolak stressed that this is “not going to be the end of coronavirus. It’s still there, and if you let your guard down it’ll hit you right in the face.”
Businesses that will remain closed include casinos, nightclubs, bars and taverns that don’t serve food, fitness centers, bowling alleys, indoor movie theaters, strip clubs and brothels. Indoor malls will also stay closed, although stores can offer curbside service.
“Social distancing is the best weapon we have against this disease,” Sisolak said. “We are not done with this fight. We cannot put our gloves down now.”