Encore Gets Ready to Roll the Dice

By: Terri Stanley
Encore President Brian Gullbrants

As businesses across the state reopen on the nod from Governor Charlie Baker, this luxury harbor resort is ready and waiting to open its doors. When the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor hotel and casino opened to the public last June 23, it was amid much fanfare and celebration. Fast forward to seven months later,
when Encore was forced to close those doors due to the Covid-19. Now it is part of the state’s phased reopening strategy, which, depending upon the virus data, means it will hopefully see those restrictions lifted in early July.

Gullbrants continues to monitor what is happening in the state, because above all else, the health and safety of the Wynn workers and its patrons is paramount. “The transition from spring into summer is something we’re doing very carefully,” saysGullbrants. “We are taking it week by week and month by month, but we’re trying to be very cautious and protective and I think caution is probably the biggest word of the summer. I don’t want a ‘new normal,’ we all want the old normal and so how do we build a bridge back to it? Very cautiously and safely because we want to protect everyone.”

Gullbrants agrees that the precautions and protocols that are now mandated for the casino are necessary. Until further notice and as dictated by Governor Baker and the state of Massachusetts, as well as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Encore will be taking the temperatures of everyone—every customer who walks in as well as every vendor and employee—with thermal imaging cameras. If your temperature is at 100.4 or higher you will not be allowed in the building. Every guest, employee or vendor walking in will be handed a mask and hand sanitizers will be provided throughout the building. 

On the day of this interview there were 1,200 signs in the front of the house, which will direct the traffic flows of pedestrians and customers, who will enter through one set of doors and leave through another. There will be new protocols and rules in the restaurants that are designed to make customers feel comfortable and safe, such as the proper space between tables and no flatware or dishes on the table, as those will be brought to you by your server. If customers feel comfortable taking a paper menu, which will be disposable, they can, otherwise there are QR codes and the menu will come up on your phone. 

Gullbrants has rethought some of the dining options for the hotel and casino as well and has taken advantage of the hiatus to introduce something new. During the seven months that Encore was open he recognized that the clientele of Encore Boston Harbor was coming from every socioeconomic level. So for those who do not want to spend a lot of money and time over dinner and would prefer to grab a quick bite to eat and get back to gaming, the casino has added an oyster bar and a pub, featuring local craft beers from the region, some of which are produced a half mile from here.

A food truck, an antique citron delivery truck from France, is on the actual gaming floor, but Gullbrants is quick to note that we “don’t think of this as a food truck you’d find rolling around the street, it’s been gutted and branded for us, and don’t worry there’s no motor in it and it’s not coming to your neighborhood next week. We are happy to introduce a second offering out of a food truck, it’s smaller and will have a chowder, chili and dogs.”

“We are taking it week by week and month by month, but we’re trying to be very cautious and protective and I think caution is probably the biggest word of the summer. I don’t want a ‘new normal,’ we all want the old normal and so how do we build a bridge back to it? Very cautiously and safely because we want to protect everyone.”

Paul Gullbrants

Before moving to Boston in 2018, Gullbrants, who lives in the North End, spent the last nine years working for the Wynn company in Las Vegas and wants to make it very clear that there is an important difference between the Wynn casinos in Las Vegas and the Encore Boston Harbor. “Las Vegas is a destination. Your business isn’t hyper localized. Vegas is escapism and more than just gaming, because you can game anywhere in the country, almost anywhere in the world and online now. 

We are a regional casino and I like to think of us as a Boston casino,” says Gullbrants. “This is our place, our place to go have fun, our place to go have a meal with some friends and then play a little of whatever it is that you enjoy. We want to be that social center, one of the premier social centers for the Boston communities.” Community is a big focus for Gullbrants and he fully supports the company’s involvement in the communities that they are a part of. The 4,300 employees of the casino, with the exception of some senior staff brought in from Las Vegas, are from the surrounding Boston neighborhoods. 

Community is a big focus forGullbrants and he fully supports the company’s involvement in the communities that they are a part of. The 4,300 employees of the casino, with the exception of some senior staff brought in from Las Vegas, are from the surrounding Boston neighborhoods. 

Wynn corporation believes that investing in people is paramount to its success and have paid all full-time Encore employees full wages and tips for 2 ½ months to help them stay afloat financially through the pandemic. That investment also extends to the organizations in the communities that surround Encore, whether it is the Boys and Girls Club, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Everett’s Grace Food Pantry or the Urban League. “We want to be a part of the community, we’re not here to visit, we’re here to stay” saysGullbrants. “And if you want to stay and work with people you need to support the people you work with. Our business partners, Frank De Pasquale and Nick Verano, Ed Kane and Randy Greenstein with Big Night Entertainment, are wonderful people to do business with and we want to support them as they support us. We look for great partnerships and this goes beyond the restauranteurs. It’s our suppliers, our vendors and the charitable organizations that are good for all of our employees and their families who live in this community. There is no better way to show your dedication to your people than investing in the things that are important to them.”

All photo credits Encore Boston Harbor
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