Encore Boston Harbor has thought of virtually every detail in their re-opening plan submitted to the state late last week – a plan that requires multiple temperature checks, straws in their paper sleeves and even a temporary departure from the “fancy” things that were known to accompany an experience at Encore.
That, said Encore President Brian Gullbrants, is the small sacrifice that will be mandatory in order for the resort casino to welcome employees and guests back to 1 Broadway in the near future. The 21-page Encore Health & Sanitation Program was compiled at the request of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and submitted to them and to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and the state Re-Opening Task Force. It is a plan that covers a great deal of territory in all operations, from customers to employees and front-of-house operations to back-of-house operations. Gullbrants said it was compiled with a collaborative effort from sister properties in China and Las Vegas, with the oversight of a team of medical professionals brought in from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown to consult.
One noticeable change will be having to sacrifice some of the fancy extras that are a staple for Encore.
“We’re approaching each business at Encore Boston Harbor very carefully,” he said. “There is no overdoing it when it comes to safety and health. We’re going to be paying attention. It might mean the experience isn’t as fancy as you once had, but we’re going to have to sacrifice the fancy for safety.”
Some of those immediately obvious things will be plexiglass barriers in places all over the casino, including on the gaming floor and reception and at the hostess counter at restaurants. Some of the extras like unwrapped straws and unfolding the napkin will also be on hold.
“Typically, when you come to dine our servers will take the corner of the napkin and place it on guest,” he said. “We’re no longer going to do that until it’s safe.”
Lounge seating at Rare and Sinatra’s will be taken away for the time being, and silverware will come wrapped in a paper napkin – straight from the sanitizer to the table. Even the menus will be disposable.
“We always had these large leather-bound menus that are beautiful, but if those menus make the customer uneasy in the short-term, it’s not worth it,” he said. “We have put our efforts into high-quality printing of our menus on paper that will be single-use.”
Menus have also been uploaded so that guests can even peruse them online and order without having to touch any paper at all – if they so choose.
Re-opening for Encore is something that has been well-publicized as it is being carefully thought about at the MGC and in state government since they are resorts that are heavily regulated by the state – unlike some other businesses in the community. That said, Gullbrants said they don’t expect to be open at the outset of the state’s phased approach.
“In no way do we think we should be part of the initial openings, and we don’t think we’ll be in Phase 1,” he said. “We think we’ll be in a latter phase. When the governor and MGC decide it’s appropriate, we’re ready to execute…Priority number one is the safety of our customers and our employees.”
Transportation, including the water shuttle and buses, will be at 25 percent and there will be clear separation for people to adhere to on those services. On the gaming floor – as in all of the resort – an aggressive cleaning protocol has been spelled out in the plan for slot machines, poker tables, railings and even the submersion of chips in disinfectant every time they are brought to the “cage.”
Temperature checks with a thermal camera will be done on every guest entering the facility, and anyone registering 100.4 or above will be taken to a separate private room for a second temperature check by trained security. If a person is still registering over 100.4 degrees, they will not be allowed into the resort.
Even reporting to work for the hundreds of Everett residents working at Encore will have a whole new look. Like guests, their temperature will be scanned and checked. Anyone not feeling well, or registering 100.4 degrees or higher, will be sent home.
The famous uniform carousel will even have a different look, Gullbrants said.
“To get their uniform, employees press a button for the carousel to retrieve their uniform,” he said. “Now we’ll have an additional employee there to make sure that button is wiped down between each push. We’re going to have staff just about everywhere. It makes business a little harder to operate, but we believe it’s important to preserve the safety of our guests and employees – and that includes the many employees we have that live in Everett.”
Other things, like the nightclub and the spa, are still more in flux. He said those things will need to wait on more input from the state before they consider re-opening.
“With regard to a few businesses, we are going to just wait,” he said. “We’re going to wait for the governor and state to guide us and weigh in and help.”
Gullbrants added that all employees would be trained on procedures in the plan before they can return to work, and there would be clear markings on the floor to make sure customers and employees know where to stand.
Bottom line, he said, is that it will be a time of staying apart, even when folks are trying to enjoy themselves in a place like Encore.
“Hopefully one day in the future we can start de-escalating the plan,” he said. “In the short-term, we’ll be living in masks and staying further apart from one another.”
The plan will be presented to the MGC at its meeting in the coming days, where it will be reviewed by stakeholders and MGC staff.
Encore Boston Harbor Commits to Paying Employees through May
Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox – just after announcing some painful First Quarter COVID-19 financial reports to the public – took to video to announce the company would continue to pay employees at Encore Boston Harbor through the end of May.
Noting it had been nearly 60 days since operations at Encore Boston Harbor and in Las Vegas had ceased, he said they pledged to continue paying their employees in both locations as they have been.
“What we have decided to do is to extend our current pay practices in North America through the end of the month – a two-week extension,” he said. “We’re one of the very few companies in our industry, not just the casino resort business, but hotels and airlines, that have done this. The 75-days, from March 15 to the end of May, we’ll have invested roughly a quarter of a billion dollars into payroll for all of (our employees).
“We’re doing that because we have the best culture and we have the best team and I want to invest in this until May 31,” he continued. “We are hopeful we will then be open and we can then understand our demand and how we need to staff. I can assure we will work with each and every one of you for the best possible outcome.”
In Las Vegas, it appears they are ahead of the curve, and there is a possibility he said – depending on the benchmarks made and the science – that Las Vegas facilities could open by the end of May. He said they are preparing for that eventuality. In Massachusetts, he said, they are just getting started with determining the phased opening approach.
“When we open it will not be the world we’re used to, but it will be progress,” he concluded.