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Restaurants’ sudden green light to reopen catches many by surprise

Updated May 8, 2020 - 8:26 am

While a number of Southern Nevada restaurant owners expressed relief — even joy — at Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Thursday afternoon announcement clearing the way for a Phase One reopening on Saturday, the brief lead time caught them by surprise.

“I’m very excited,” said Marcello Mauro, general manager of Nora’s Italian Cuisine at 5780 W. Flamingo Road. “We’re excited to be open for Mother’s Day. We’ll have some private rooms open, spread out the tables. We have a very strong crew. Half of my staff has been asking, ‘When can we come back? When can we come back?’ We’ve been open for takeout, so we have plenty of food.”

Mother’s Day is traditionally the busiest day of the year for the industry, but the quick turnaround necessitated by the day and a half between the announcement and the launch of Phase One posed some challenges.

“We have some construction to be done next week, because we thought we would be closed through the 15th,” Mauro said.

“We’re gonna try” to open on Saturday, said Omelet House partner Fred Ostertag, referring to the location at 316 N. Boulder Highway in Henderson. “That’s all I can do. There will be a shortage of food and a shortage of all kinds of supplies, but we’ll push for it.”

The restaurant’s location up the road at 6520 Boulder Highway may be ready to open Sunday, Ostertag said, explaining that management had shifted supplies to the Henderson restaurant, which has been offering takeout.

But things are different at the Omelet House at 2160 W. Charleston Blvd.

“We’re not even close to being open Saturday,” partner Kevin Mills said. “We’re 10 days out. I didn’t anticipate coming on line this quickly. That’s great news for people who can do it; I’m just in the middle of putting new flooring down and finishing up the remodel on the bathrooms. We’ll push to get the dust cleaned up. I think the 15th is a good opening date for me.”

At the Summerlin location of Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen at 1220 N. Town Center Drive, owner Lola Pokorny said the news of Sisolak’s announcement had made her “excited, nervous.”

“Just about making sure everything is put in place,” Pokorny said. “We’ve already been working on (standard operating procedures) and procedures of other kinds and signage, how to communicate with the customer. These things have to be right. They can’t be rushed.”

To that end, the restaurant will be open for curbside service from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will be closed Monday.

“Tuesday at 3 p.m., we will open our doors to reservations at 50 percent” of capacity, she said. Because she’s just starting curbside service Friday, she said she has what she needs, which wouldn’t have been the case a few weeks ago. Pokorny said she’ll wait a bit before reopening her restaurant at 241 W. Charleston Blvd.

“We need to see what businesses are opening downtown,” she said. “We’ll open our doors slowly down there. Employees from downtown will be working with us up here.”

Liam Dwyer, chef/owner at 7th & Carson downtown, said he’s also at somewhat of an advantage because he’s been doing takeout.

“We’re going to pull the trigger and we’re going to turn this ship around,” Dwyer said with a bit of exultation. “I’m going to talk to my team tonight. The fact that we have the outside patios puts us at an advantage. We’ll just put in some swamp coolers. We’re going to focus on Mother’s Day for Saturday and Sunday brunch and Sunday dinner.”

Juan Vazquez, owner of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas at 9640 W. Tropicana Ave. and 16 S. Water St. in Henderson, said he didn’t think he’d reopen his dining rooms until Monday.

“It would just be a mess converting our dining room to 50 percent capacity,” he said. He added that he was a little worried about the supply chain, noting that beef that was $5.85 a pound wholesale on Monday had jumped to $7.12 on Thursday. As for employees, he said he thinks he’ll be able to find enough.

“We’re going to help out the ones who helped us when we really needed it,” he said. “We’re going to definitely put them out front.”

Like Ostertag, he said he was pleased the capacity limit had been set at 50 percent, rather than the 20 to 25 percent that had been bandied about, but still isn’t sure that’s enough.

“It’s something where at least we can start, and build from there,” Vazquez said.

But at Pamplemousse at 400 E. Sahara Ave., whose website is bannered, “For the first time in 44 years, we are temporarily closed,” owner Diana Maisondieu-LaForge broke into hearty laughter when asked when she would reopen.

“I have a good sense of humor,” she said. “You have to.”

With additional considerations necessitated by a fine-dining restaurant, she said she’d need at least a month to reopen — “you don’t just flip the switch on Saturday or Sunday and go full-steam ahead.”

“Staff in their tuxedos serving wine and Champagne wearing masks? In some ways it feels like a black comedy.”

She said she wants to reopen soon for the sake of her staff but also needs to be practical. With a heavy reliance on visitor and convention trade, she wonders if she’ll have enough customers to justify opening during the summer.

“Without visitors coming, it’s so, so difficult,” she said. “You don’t shut down a world economy and expect people to pop back up at a moment’s notice. We’re all going to be facing super challenges.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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