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Las Vegas restaurants to see little effect from crowd-limit increases

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive this week regarding maximum crowd size allowed under anti-COVID-19 guidelines may have raised that number by a factor of five, but many local business owners say it will have little to no effect on how they’re currently operating.

“Not in the slightest,” said Kevin Mills, owner and senior director of the Omelet House.

“We are still navigating the changes that might come from the updated restrictions, but at first glance, we don’t see it being so helpful for small, local restaurants,” Elizabeth Blau, restaurant developer and owner of Honey Salt, Buddy V’s Ristorante and the soon-to-be-rebranded Andiron Steak & Sea, said through a spokeswoman.

The directive raised crowd maximums from 50 to 250, or half of the capacity of the facility — whichever is smallest.

“For us, it’s really not going to make a difference,” said Metro Pizza co-owner John Arena. “We’d have to be at 500 seats to make that 250.”

And few restaurants, in Southern Nevada or the rest of the country, meet that threshold. The hulking Hofbrauhaus restaurant and beer hall on Paradise Road can, without taking social distancing into account, handle parties of 1,000 standing or 700 in seats, and Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace can seat 600 (neither has reopened since the beginning of the pandemic), but most restaurants on their best days can accommodate far fewer people.

Spokeswomen for the South Point, whose Garden Buffet is open under a modified business model, and MGM Resorts International said Thursday there were no plans to increase seating capacity at any of their restaurants.

But the change may affect some private events.

“When we’re increasing capacity, that’s going to be helping restaurants that do have that capacity for larger events like weddings and birthdays, things like that,” said Alexandria Dazlich, director of government affairs for the Nevada Restaurant Association.

Matt Silverman, who operates seven local restaurants and bars (Hexx, Cabo Wabo Cantina, Beer Park, Chayo, Alexxa’s Bar, Big Chicken and Chateau Nightclub), said while there would be no effect on day-to-day operations, there could be on private events.

“We are hopeful there will be requests for weddings and other things that are larger than 50 people that we will be able to take when and if people call,” Silverman said. He added that Chateau Nightclub can now host events up to 250 people.

“That is helpful,” he said.

Ryan Doherty, founder of Corner Bar Management, said through a spokeswoman that the change wouldn’t affect his spots, which are generally smaller and include Commonwealth, The Laundry Room, Park on Fremont and Lucky Day downtown and Oddwood at Area15.

But elsewhere, there was encouraging news for music fans.

“It certainly means we’re going to be bringing back entertainment as soon as we possibly can,” said Brad Goldberg, senior vice president of marketing for Golden Entertainment. “I’ve spoken to all of the various show producers that we work with, and they’re all excited to get back up and running, in a socially distanced, responsible way that adheres to the updated state mandates.”

Goldberg added that capacity constraints make better sense for certain shows, depending on operating costs; i.e., a comedy show might be cost-effective with no more than 250 people in the audience, but not a show with high production costs.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter. Staff writers Al Mancini and Jason Bracelin contributed to this report.

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