Virgin Hotels Aims to Retain Staff Before and After Hard Rock Closure

  • Hard Rock Las Vegas will close for most of 2020 during renovation to Virgin Hotels
  • “Stick Around and Come Back” program pays staff a bonus for staying until closing date
  • Employees can easily get jobs back if they want to return
  • Industry experts applaud program
Exterior daytime view of Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
Virgin Hotels’ “Stick Around and Come Back” program aims to retain Hard Rock Las Vegas employees who will be out of work when the property shuts down for renovations. [Image: Shutterstock]

Hard Rock to close during 2020 rebranding

Virgin Hotels made the decision a couple weeks ago to close the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas completely while it is renovated to become Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

The closure will begin after the Super Bowl in February 2020 and continue until late in the year. One of the natural consequences of this is that employees will be out of jobs during the shutdown.

In an attempt to smooth the transition, Virgin is implementing a plan called “Stick Around and Come Back.” Recently, the company and industry experts provided more insight into the thought process behind the program.

Virgin working to help affected employees

With “Stick Around and Come Back,” Virgin is incentivizing the Hard Rock’s nearly 2,000 employees to stay onboard until the closing date instead of moving to another casino immediately.

Those who do stay the duration will receive a bonus of up to ten weeks’ pay. In addition, Hard Rock staff who want to return to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas when the property re-opens in late 2020 will have their old jobs waiting for them. They will not need to re-interview.

“We have so many team members who have been with us since 1995 and who are just as excited about the future of the property as they were on day one,” Virgin Las Vegas partner and CEO Richard “Boz” Bosworth told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Bosworth continued: “We appreciate their passion, loyalty and want them to be part of the team that opens the highly anticipated, vibrant and renovated Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.”

Insiders believe program is smart move

“Stick Around and Come Back” is a fairly unique program in the hospitality industry, according to Bethany Khan, a spokeswoman for Culinary Workers Local 226. She told the Review-Journal, though, that her union was involved with negotiating the plan.

“Stick Around and Come Back” is a fairly unique program in the hospitality industry

Khan said: “With a union contract, workers have many protections on-the-job, they are treated with respect. When workers know they are valued, they can provide the highest quality of service and hospitality.”

David Schwartz, UNLV associate vice provost for faculty affairs, told the newspaper that this is a wise move for Virgin.

“It may go beyond the dollars and cents,” he said. “This may help build goodwill for the new property and ensure that they have an experienced staff when they reopen.”

John DeCree, an analyst for Union Gaming Securities, added that it could also be a defensive play. If unemployment rates remain low a year from now, it could make finding qualified staff difficult. He also noted that casinos from outside of the state have been going to Las Vegas to hire away experienced industry workers. For example, recruiters from Monarch Casino Resort Spa in Black Hawk, Colorado held a job fair at Palace Station just last week.

Two tough choices

The original plan for the renovation was to close portions of the property in phases for the first four months and then shutter everything for the second four months or so. Virgin eventually saw it as too much of a logistical challenge.

“If you stay open, you keep your employees working and some money coming in, but your guests may be inconvenienced,” Schwartz told the Review-Journal. Commenting on the implications of closing, he said:

But if you close to renovate, you don’t have that revenue stream.”

DeCree elaborated on the former point, saying: “It can be disruptive during renovation, which can lead to less-than-stellar Trip Advisor reviews. When you open your doors again, you want them to experience Virgin Hotels and avoid confusion. […] It makes sense to preserve the brand and reopen with a new image.”

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