As Las Vegas buffets have disappeared, workers and diners are wondering: What’s next?

Ed Komenda

Reno Gazette Journal

LAS VEGAS – Nestor Gutierrez is a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But not the way you might think.

The 53-year-old buffet cook spent 16 years at Texas Station. Then came March 2020. COVID-19 collapsed Nevada tourism, and the resort closed.

Gutierrez lost his job. Station Casinos paid him until May, but he has yet to return to work. His unemployment payment supports a household that includes his wife, two children and 92-year-old father.

He waits for a callback, but Texas Station has not announced plans to open. It’s not the closure that concerns Gutierrez and front-line hospitality workers like him. It’s the reality of being jobless in a world where their skills translate nowhere else.

The last Las Vegas buffet

It’s about 4 p.m. on a recent Tuesday. Outside the South Point Hotel’s Garden Buffet, hungry patrons wait. It’s dinnertime at the last buffet on Las Vegas Boulevard.

“A lot of people say buffets are old-school Vegas. It’s the thing Vegas became known for, and everybody had them. They became a mainstay,” said South Point General Manager Ryan Growney. “The problem with buffets is they are very expensive to operate. For that reason, you’ve seen a lot of people move away from them.

The decision to keep it open was based on a simple philosophy: What the people want, the people get.

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