Voluntary COVID-19 Fee Now Charged at Several Eateries on Las Vegas Strip

Posted on: June 12, 2020, 05:11h. 

Last updated on: June 12, 2020, 11:01h.

Three noteworthy restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip are now adding an optional four percent surcharge to a diner’s bill due to coronavirus-related costs. The surcharge comes as many casinos reopened on June 4 after months of shuttering, and diners begin to return to the Strip’s diverse restaurant scene.

COVID-19 Restaurant Charges
Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas (as seen in 2017) is one of three restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip now requesting an optional COVID-19 surcharge. (Image: Eugenio Roig/Flickr)

The eateries charging the new fee include El Segundo Sol at Fashion Show Mall, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab at the Forum Shops at Caesars (Palace), and Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

“To help offset restrictions on our business resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, a 4% surcharge has been added to all guest checks. If you would like this removed, please let us know,” the online menus inform customers.

El Segundo Sol, located near the Wynn Las Vegas, is a Mexican eatery that typically features between $14 and $21 entrees. Dinner entrees at Mon Ami Gabi, a French bistro, will typically run between $17 and $40.

Dinner entrees at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab run between about $19 to $80. A large order of Jumbo Alaskan King Crab totals close to $115.

News of the Joe’s coronavirus surcharge was first reported by Scott Roeben, founder of Vital Vegas. “We want the place to thrive, and we don’t mind helping Joe’s through a rough patch,” Roeben said in an empathetic post.

“Typically, I’d go into rant mode,” Roeben later explained to the Review-Journal about the fee. “Because part of my stock and trade is helping people avoid these annoying fees.

But as I thought about it more, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I do support these places. And I tip more now to support the servers.’ So, this is like a tip for the restaurant itself,” Roeben added.

Roeben notes that the other option for these restaurants is to raise prices.

“But you know how that is. Once you go up, they don’t often go back. So I’d rather have this tacked on temporarily,” Roeben told the Review-Journal.

Joe’s has been a popular place in recent years. In 2019, Joe’s clinched the Number 1 restaurant ranking in Las Vegas on Restaurant Business magazine’s list of top grossing independent restaurants. Based on the magazine’s estimates, Joe’s saw over $22 million in sales in 2018.

The average Joe’s check was $77. Those results earned Joe’s the 18th position on the national ranking.

When asked about the COVID-19 surcharge, R.J. Melman, president of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the parent company of El Segundo Sol, said it is “a necessary step during a time when unanticipated costs have jeopardized the survival of our business.

“Our industry has been dramatically impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures. In addition to the extreme restrictions that have been placed on our dining rooms, we are also facing additional costs of doing business — added expenses for carryout and delivery, providing PPE to employees, executing enhanced sanitation practices, and absorbing the greatest increase in food pricing since 1974,” Melman explained to the Review-Journal.

South Florida, Chicago Also Charge Eatery Coronavirus Fees

Elsewhere, the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently reported COVID-19 fees “are rapidly becoming the new normal, as pandemic-weary restaurants reopen to the public, with surcharges popping up — often to customers’ surprise — on dine-in food checks.”

For instance, Rack’s Fish House + Oyster Bar in Delray Beach charged diners a “D-Operations” fee, representing 3 percent of the bill, for sanitation supplies, the newspaper reported.

One Chicago restaurant even added a 26 percent COVID-19 surcharge last month, citing increased costs. It was lowered to 17 percent after many customers were outraged, KABC TV, a Los Angeles-based station reported.

Other Fees Charged at Southern Nevada Restaurants

But COVID-19 is not the only reason eateries choose to add fees to a meal. Eater Las Vegas reports an extra fee is getting charged for beef at Tacoman Grille, a Mexican restaurant in nearby Henderson, and at Roberto’s Tacos. Tacoman adds an extra $2 for any beef dish, Eater Las Vegas further reveals. Lotus of Siam, which reopened the Thai eatery in Las Vegas’s Commercial Center, even asks for a 3 percent fee to offset worker health-care expenses, the Review-Journal said.

Since 2016, JRS Hospitality restaurants have asked for a 4.7 to 4.85 concession and franchise fee on the bill, Eater Las Vegas added. Last September, guests at Las Vegas casinos found out they had to pay service fees, or “venue” fees, on drinks. Other surcharges that have irritated Las Vegas visitors include “resort fees.”