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2 years later: Historic casino El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas rebounds from pandemic shutdown

Posted at 8:01 AM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 14:14:19-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Locking the doors of the El Cortez as part of the shutdown in Las Vegas this week in March of 2020 was not only physically challenging, but it was also emotionally difficult for its staff and its customers.

“It was really surreal,” said General Manager Adam Weisberg.

On March 15 that year, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts voluntarily announced they were closing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. A few days later, on March 17, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses to close for 30 days effective March 18.

Some casinos began closing down before the deadline and The Strip and downtown area became a ghost town.

"I can’t even really describe it. It was emotional. It was terrible. It was scary," Weisberg said. "Having to tell all of our employees, who were looking to me and trying to ask me questions about what was going to happen and of course, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The shutdown came during one of Las Vegas’ busiest weekends: March Madness was set to tip-off and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were already underway.

The hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas is more than 80 years old, and its building was not constructed with locks so employees had to find padlocks and chains to close its doors.

Two years later, the family-owned establishment continues to rebound from the pandemic and the shutdown.

Unlike most businesses in Southern Nevada, management at El Cortez saw the shut down as an opportunity to complete its $25 million renovations.

Architects redesigned its slot machine floor, eliminating around 500 slots so that machines would be socially-distanced, and implementing new cleaning techniques.

And the changes paid off.

The El Cortez was ready to welcome back its employees and guests when Nevada “reopened” on June 1, 2021.

That morning, patrons lined up outside the building. Weisberg said both customers and employees liked the improvements made to the historic hotel-casino.

Weisberg also says that the hotel-casino has recovered well from the pandemic and now they’re looking toward the future as Las Vegas and Southern Nevada invite back domestic and international visitors.