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Virgin Hotels taking steps to retain Hard Rock Hotel workers

The Virgin Hotels Las Vegas name may be new, but the property is hoping to keep some familiar faces around after it undergoes renovation.

The property, now known as the Hard Rock Hotel, is set to shut its doors for approximately eight months as it goes through its transformation to become the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in 2020. To keep its 1,850 team members around, the company is offering a “Stick Around and Come Back” program, giving a retention bonus if employees stick around through early February 2020.

“It may go beyond the dollars and cents,” said UNLV associate vice provost for faculty affairs David Schwartz. “This may help build goodwill for the new property and ensure that they have an experienced staff when they reopen.”

Keeping staff on hand

Richard “Boz” Bosworth, the property’s ownership partner and CEO, said the program offers employees a retention bonus in a lump sum for up to 10 weeks of payment. Those who want to continue work in the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas after it shuts down in February would not be required to interview again for their previous job. The option is open to all hourly gaming, nongaming, union and non-union employees.

While some employees will find work elsewhere, Bosworth said he’s confident there are others who are excited about returning to the property.

“We have so many Team Members who have been with us since 1995 and who are just as excited about the future of the property as they were on day one,” he said via email. “We appreciate their passion, loyalty and want them to be part of the team that opens the highly anticipated, vibrant and renovated Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.”

Union Gaming analyst John DeCree said that the program “made sense” for the property, especially with low unemployment rates and increased competition from other companies looking to hire in Las Vegas, such as Colorado-based Monarch Casino Resort Spa and Resorts World, which is set to open next year.

“There’s a lot of hiring that has to happen for new casinos,” DeCree said. Without a retention program, “you could find yourself in a position where it’s difficult to hire and fully staff your casinos.”

Impact on business

The original renovation plans would have phased in renovations for four months and then closed down the property completely for another four months. But Bosworth told the Review-Journal that shutting down entirely during the eight-month time span is the “most efficient” method to have a timely opening by the end of 2020.

Schwartz said both plans have their downsides.

“If you stay open, you keep your employees working and some money coming in, but your guests may be inconvenienced,” Schwartz said. “But if you close to renovate, you don’t have that revenue stream.”

Bethany Khan, spokeswoman for Culinary Workers Local 226, said the union helped negotiate these protections for Hard Rock union employees. She said programs like these are not common in the industry, but are standard in all of the union’s contracts.

“With a union contract, workers have many protections on-the-job, they are treated with respect,” she said. “When workers know they are valued, they can provide the highest quality of service and hospitality.”

The Hard Rock property isn’t the first to completely shut down for renovations. The Sahara was closed between 2011 and 2014 to become the SLS Las Vegas, and the Plaza closed down nearly a year for renovations in 2010.

DeCree said it’s an uncommon strategy for casinos. Other properties such as the Palms and Park MGM remained open during major renovations, but DeCree said it made sense for the Hard Rock to shut its doors completely — he said customers exploring the property amid the renovation process could be confused about its branding.

“It can be disruptive during renovation, which can lead to less-than-stellar Trip Advisor reviews,” he said. “When you open your doors again, you want them to experience Virgin Hotels and avoid confusion. … It makes sense to preserve the brand and reopen with a new image.”

The property’s official reopening date after the approximately $200 million overhaul has not yet been set.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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