ENTERTAINMENT

Las Vegas is a ghost town where even the strippers put up signs saying "Sorry, we're dressed".


It's America's most colorful playground, with crowds hurrying around the world-famous “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” neon sign for selfies while the infamous Strip is visited by tourists looking for debauchery.

Sin City has a well-deserved reputation for delivering all kinds of thrills 24/7 – from high-stakes poker tournaments, slots and roulette wheels in the casinos to strip joints, showbiz glamor and all-night bars.

Wealth can so easily be made – or lost – in an instant.

But today, in the shadow of Covid-19, Las Vegas is on its own losing streak.

While few places have remained untouched by the pandemic, perhaps nowhere has the devil's attitude rocked as much as in that tight pocket of Nevada.

Casinos, hotels and shows, which generated $ 60 billion (£ 48 billion) in tourist revenue last year, are either nearly empty or closed.

The entertainment mecca of the Strip, attended by 49.5 million people from around the world in 2019 – including half a million from the UK – is being neglected and abandoned.

A 150-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty wears a face mask while no one asks for a selfie through the flashing neon signs.

Sin City has a well-deserved reputation for delivering all kinds of thrills around the clock – from high-stakes poker tournaments, slots and roulette wheels in the casinos to strip joints, showbiz glitz and all-night bars

ALMOST DESERT: The entertainment mecca of the Strip, attended by 49.5 million people from around the world in 2019 - including half a million from the UK - is being neglected and abandoned. Pictured: The Vegas Strip is empty on September 9th

ALMOST DESERT: The entertainment mecca of the Strip, attended by 49.5 million people from around the world in 2019 – including half a million from the UK – is being neglected and abandoned. Pictured: The Vegas Strip is empty on September 9th

The famous fountains in front of the Bellagio Hotel, which usually drew two or three crowds, rest. The constant roar of planes bringing tourists to McCarran International Airport has stopped.

Meanwhile, the empty sky is ashen – a result of the California forest fires fueled by gusts of wind in Santa Ana from the neighboring state.

At the Venetian Resort, bored-looking gondoliers poke their way along the fake canals without passengers.

Billboards may advertise Cirque du Soleil hit shows and A-list superstars including Robbie Williams, Lady Gaga and Diana Ross, but all performances will be canceled.

The day pool parties and nightclubs that a single Prince Harry once so notoriously enjoyed before playing strip billiards in his room at Wynn Casino are just a memory.

Even Vegas ubiquitous strip connections no longer exist. Little Darlings tried to stay open and offered "coronavirus-free" dancers and nude, hand-rehabilitated wrestling.

It is now marked with a sign saying "Sorry, we are clothed".

The Nevada Resort Association warns that losses could reach as high as $ 39 billion (£ 30.5 billion) by the end of the year – most likely a record loss for this normally immensely profitable honeypot.

Even in reopened casinos, life is strange.

23-year-old Los Angeles tourist Ben Jacobs says, "It's like being in a zombie apocalypse movie. Vegas is a place to laugh and have fun, but now it's so quiet and everyone is wearing a mask.

“There's none of the usual human interactions. The stuff that makes you say,“ What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. ”I came over with a buddy for a break, but we're only staying one night. Even those Strip clubs are closed. "

Large parts of the cave-like play floors were cordoned off so that only limited areas remained open.

Even Vegas ubiquitous strip connections no longer exist. Little Darlings tried to stay open and offered "coronavirus-free" dancers and nude, hand-rehabilitated wrestling. It is now marked with a sign saying "Sorry, we are clothed".

Even Vegas ubiquitous strip connections no longer exist. Little Darlings tried to stay open and offered "coronavirus-free" dancers and nude, hand-rehabilitated wrestling. It is now marked with a sign saying "Sorry, we are clothed".

A sign in Mandalay Bay says "Shoes on, shirt on, mask on, Vegas on".

A sign in Mandalay Bay says "Shoes on, shirt on, mask on, Vegas on".

One blackjack dealer explained, “The idea was to focus people in small areas to make it feel like there were more people here than there were. Everyone was hit by the pandemic, but Vegas was devastated.

“This is a city based entirely on entertainment. I feel lucky to have my job. Tons of friends were laid off. Most pile up shelves and do what they have to do to survive. The worst part is not knowing when things are going to get better. "

The reality is that some casinos may never open again.

The Palms, which spent $ 690 million (more than £ 500 million) on a renovation last year – including an "Empathy Suite" designed by artist Damien Hirst and packed with his original artwork for $ 100,000 a night (78,000 Pound) – remains closed. Two bull sharks floating in formaldehyde in the lobby remain hidden from all but the security guards patrolling the property.

Frank Fertitta, CEO of Red Rock Resorts, which owns The Palms, solemnly admits, "We don't know when – or if – we're going to reopen."

The Las Vegas Business Bureau estimates that 40 percent of restaurants can fail permanently.

The bosses of the "Monorail," which carried guests between the casinos on the Strip last week, announced that they had gone broke.

In Caesars Palace, a hedonistic homage to the golden days of Rome, Plexiglas screens protect the dealers at poker and blackjack tables, with plastic walls between each player.

Vendors wear masks and plastic visors, while visitors are required to wear masks as well.

Casinos, hotels and shows, which generated $ 60 billion (£ 48 billion) in tourist revenue last year, are either nearly empty or closed

Casinos, hotels and shows, which generated $ 60 billion (£ 48 billion) in tourist revenue last year, are either nearly empty or closed

I watch a man who comes in without a face covering is immediately approached by a security guard and hands over a paper mask.

Cocktail waitresses in tiny skirts, once a trademark of Vegas, are no longer allowed to serve players at gaming tables. They may have been a cliché, but the casino seems soulless without them.

Instead, cleaners with spray bottles of disinfectant rush the moment someone walks away from a slot machine.

Room rates – hundreds of dollars a night during peak times like big boxing nights and New Years Eve – have dropped to $ 49 a night or less, even at five-star resorts like The Wynn.

Meanwhile, in the upscale Bellagio, “washing stations” – stands with antibacterial soap and alcohol gel next to the hand wash basin – are spread across the casino floor.

Opening the door to my room at the Bellagio feels like stepping into a crime scene.

A sticker is stuck over the door seal. “Cleaned for you. Vegas, sure, "they say.

The room itself is immaculate. Everything that could harbor the virus has been removed – from mini-bar food to magazines to toiletries such as cotton swabs and shower caps. The TV remote control is in a paper label with a note that it has been sterilized.

Every organization does everything to survive.

NO PEOPLE: Caroline Graham at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, usually a busy selfie spot

NO PEOPLE: Caroline Graham at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, usually a busy selfie spot

"Opening the door to my room at the Bellagio feels like stepping into a crime scene." The famous fountains in front of the Bellagio Hotel (picture), which usually drew two or three people down below, rest

Michael Caprio has been running his PR business of the same name in Vegas for 16 years. He represents singer Olivia Newton-John and Vegas institutions like the Chippendales, an all-male strip troupe that has performed here since the 1980s.

Says Caprio, “The Chippendales have zoom parties for women who usually come to the live shows to celebrate bachelorette parties, divorces or birthdays.

"They play games like" What's in my pants? "They hide fruits and vegetables in their pants. It's great fun and a way to keep the revenue stream going."

Another client, magician Xavier Mortimer, saw his live show at Bally's Casino closed and started performing online.

One trick he performed on Facebook was June's Most Watched Video, which attracted 50 million hits. Before the virus, Mortimer had 40,000 social media followers – now there are six million.

"Xavier is a success story, but I've never seen Vegas like this," says Caprio.

“Vegas is 99 percent a city of the hotel industry. They come to have fun, see a show, eat out, shop, play.

When Covid closed us in mid-March, it was devastating. Everywhere has been hit hard, but a particularly heavy cloud hangs over Vegas.

"The disturbing part is that we don't know when the tourists will return and when Vegas will be allowed to go back to normal."

“The data is shifted again and again. First it was "Oh, we'll be back in July," then September, then Christmas. Now we're talking about March or May.

“For every great talent like Lady Gaga, there are thousands of support staff, lighting technicians, dancers, theater managers and cocktail waitresses who will bring you your drinks. They all hurt. "

Last week, singer Lily Allen married actor friend David Harbor in Vegas along with a singing Elvis impersonator. The couple's wedding photos show them with Allen's two children from their first marriage enjoying in-n-out burgers after the ceremony

Last week, singer Lily Allen married actor friend David Harbor in Vegas along with a singing Elvis impersonator. The couple's wedding photos show them with Allen's two children from their first marriage enjoying in-n-out burgers after the ceremony

One glimmer of hope is that the notoriously sticky scene of the "instant wedding" is gaining momentum. Last week, singer Lily Allen married actor friend David Harbor in Vegas along with a singing Elvis impersonator.

The couple's wedding photos show them with Allen's two children from their first marriage enjoying in-n-out burgers after the ceremony.

Her new husband, referring to the devastating smoke, said, “At a wedding directed by the King himself, the People's Princess married her devoted, lowly but kind credit card holder in a beautiful ceremony raised by the ashen sky courtesy of A burning state miles away amid a global pandemic. & # 39;

At Vegas' most famous wedding venue, A Little White Wedding Chapel, which pioneered the idea of ​​a "quick" drive through ceremony (Joan Collins, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis and Britney Spears got married), it was owned by Charolette Richards said a "normal" day before Covid would have seen between 40 and 50 ceremonies.

"We're down to 15-20 now, but people are slowly coming back," she says.

"People still want to get married and we are taking all precautions. The temperature of the bride and groom is measured, the masks are worn until the ceremony and the pastor wears a plastic visor.

"It is encouraging to know that even coronavirus cannot kill love." Couples come to Vegas for a fun, memorable wedding. The difference now is that there are no guests. "

For example, Lainey Reed, 29, a photographer, and her fiancé Ross Gibson, 30, an oil worker, got married with the help of another Elvis impersonator named Michael Conti. He starred alongside Johnny Depp in the film Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and serenaded the bride and groom with Can't Help Falling In Love.

In Caesars Palace, a hedonistic homage to the golden days of Rome, Plexiglas screens protect the dealers at poker and blackjack tables, with plastic walls between each player. Vendors wear masks and plastic visors, while visitors are required to wear masks as well. Pictured: A 150-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty wears a face mask

In Caesars Palace, a hedonistic homage to the golden days of Rome, Plexiglas screens protect the dealers at poker and blackjack tables, with plastic walls between each player. Vendors wear masks and plastic visors, while visitors are required to wear masks as well. Pictured: A 150-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty wears a face mask

The couple from Louisiana originally planned an elaborate ceremony in Hawaii, but had to cancel it. “We wanted to be married, so we made the spontaneous decision to come to Vegas and just do it,” explains Lainey. "It's a lot less stressful than the wedding we had planned. As soon as Covid is over, we'll have a big party for our friends."

Your ability-mind is shared by many.

According to Gene Northup, Sotheby's real estate agent, home sales have increased 24 percent as families flee major cities to suburbs where they can get large family homes for far less than California.

He adds: “Real estate is booming. Coronavirus made people want single family homes with zoom rooms to work.

“However, apartments on the Strip are not good because people don't want to share gyms and elevators. Wealthy families flock here from places like LA, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. Tax rates are low, as is the cost of living.

“Covid was devastating to our economy, but there is always a silver cloud in every situation, and real estate is. Vegas will be back. "

Michael Caprio adds, “Vegas may be down, but we never count ourselves out. I want to say to people everywhere, especially our friends in the UK, that we look forward to seeing you again soon. "

All bets may have been void. But there will always be another roll of the dice for Vegas.

(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) News (t) Las Vegas (t) Coronavirus