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Vegas restaurants cope with extended coronavirus restrictions

                                Kerry Callahan, left, and Aubree Toledo sat in an outdoor individual dining tent at Esther’s Kitchen a downtown Las Vegas restaurant, Dec. 14.


    Kerry Callahan, left, and Aubree Toledo sat in an outdoor individual dining tent at Esther’s Kitchen a downtown Las Vegas restaurant, Dec. 14.

LAS VEGAS >> Las Vegas restaurants and bars are turning to individual dining tents, food trucks and contactless takeout to survive extended coronavirus restrictions limiting indoor dining.

The hospitality industry has been especially hurt by the pandemic, first seeing total shutdowns and then shifting restrictions on capacity and other operations.

Amid a surge of reported coronavirus cases hospitalizations and deaths in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak in late November tightened restrictions on casinos and restaurants, which had been operating generally at 50% capacity since summer. Sisolak ordered them to reduce capacity to 25% or 50 people, whichever is less, and extended the limits until at least Jan. 15.

To cope with the new rules as chilly weather has made its way to southern Nevada, one Las Vegas restaurant, Esther’s Kitchen, has expanded into its parking lot in the city’s Arts District with eight cabana-style structures.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports each individual dining tent has floor coverings, lighting, a sound system and a heater. The tents are arranged around a fire pit sitting on artificial turf.

James Trees, chef and owner of Esther’s Kitchen, said he’ll have to stay creative because even if restrictions are eased back to 50% capacity, it won’t pay the bills.

“We still need more ideas, which causes us to just push ourselves in a way that will make us more innovative over the next few months,” he said.

He’s also created takeout versions of two of the restaurant’s pasta dishes and is working to get takeout packaging that keeps orders fresh as they travel.

Hash House A Go Go, which has five locations in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, had been considering launching a food truck before the pandemic, co-owner Jim Rees said.

“When this hit, it was all the more reason to get it going as quickly as we could,” Rees said.

The chain debuted the food truck this past week outside their location in west Las Vegas on Sahara Avenue. The truck offers buy-one-get-one-free on all menu items and $1.50 domestic beers.

Most of Hash House A Go Go’s restaurants, which have limited hours, have reduced the menu from eight pages to a two-sided sheet for food and one for drinks. Rees said it was an attempt to convert the menu into single-use, disposable sheets and concentrate on the signature offerings that a smaller staff can prepare.

Rees said guests have provided very little negative feedback to the slimmer menu.

Other establishments have offered new takeout options, such as La Strega in Summerlin which started selling piadina flatbread sandwiches and more from a walk-up sidewalk stand next to the restaurant.

“We have a clientele here that’s a little bit more cautious, with corona and everything,” said chef and partner Gina Marinelli. “So for them to come up and get contact-free piadina, salads, spritzes and things to take home, or go the park, or do whatever — we’ve created something really special and safe for them.”

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