It’s calm before the storm at the D Las Vegas as guests check into the hotel and sit at the LONGBAR five hours before the casino opens.
After making himself available for two hours of media interviews, owner Derek Stevens stands talking to employees, friends and guests.
The music is blaring, the drinks are pouring and employees are standing by at the table games, even though no one can play until after midnight.
“I’m pretty excited about what’s happening today,” said Stevens, pulling down his mask to talk. “The energy of the building is terrific and everybody is coming back to work. It’s good to have hotel guests early and at midnight we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Stevens said he expects 40 percent occupancy at the D Las Vegas and his nearby Golden Gate at the opening and hopes he can reach 100 percent on Saturday. The D has 629 rooms, and 122 at the Golden Gate.
“Las Vegas can’t check in 155,000 people in one day if they wanted to,” Stevens said. “It’s not physically possible.”
One of those guests who checked in Wednesday drove by himself for six hours from the Central California coast. Terry Bartholomew was sipping a margarita at the end of the LONGBAR, counting the time until he could start playing craps. The 42-year-old makes one trip a year to Vegas and will be joined tomorrow by a cousin.
“We’ve been bottled up forever,” said Bartholomew, a prison maintenance supervisor. “I usually come for my birthday in August, but you never know what will be going on so I’m coming now.”
Bartholomew wasn’t wearing a mask or fearing COVID-19 while sitting at the bar. He said he was excited to get in at 2 p.m., take a nap and wake up at 5 p.m. and order a drink when the bar opened at 6 p.m. He’s ready.
“I wanted to see what it was like to reopen Vegas. It’s a once in a lifetime thing, and I wanted to play craps and hopefully have an hour roll and win $100 grand,” Bartholomew said before pausing. “It seems like midnight is too far away. It’s forever for me, anyway.”
Fremont Street is empty hours before casinos reopen at midnight. The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” is blaring over the loudspeakers and the bartenders at the outdoor D Bar are awaiting the arrival of customers.
Toni Kalcheva, one of the bartenders, said it’s strange to be back to work and out in public after being guaranteed for two months but isn’t worried about the coronavirus. She’s worked at the D for 2½ years and got two weeks extra pay and unemployment that tied her over until the reopening.
“I have a good feeling about it and staying positive,” Kalcheva said. “Hopefully gaming opens up tonight and people are eager to come out after quarantining for so long.