Cherokee Nation Businesses temporarily closes operations
Security vehicles are stationed outside the empty Cherokee Casino Tahlequah on March 20. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Businesses officials decided in mid-March to suspend several operations, which includes casinos, hotels, museums and retail to help protect employees, citizens and patrons from the spread of COVID-19.
On March 16, CNB temporarily suspended all operations at Cherokee Nation Entertainment casinos and hotels, including Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, through March 31, stated a CN press release. In a Facebook video on March 26, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced the suspension will continue through April 17 at which time the tribe would reevaluate the feasibility of reopening. Employees will continue to be paid during the suspension of operations, Hoskin said.
At the time of closure, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the tribe’s jurisdiction. As of March 24, there were two confirmed cases that involved CN citizens.
Hoskin said it is a priority to ensure the safety of citizens, employees and patrons during this pandemic.
“We continue our commitment to being proactive. Whether we can prevent the spread of a few cases or many cases within our tribe and within our community, we are being vigilant in protecting our people,” he said.
In the past month, CNB has dedicated additional resources to clean and disinfect its properties along with closing certain venues that “cater to large gatherings,” officials said.
“It is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires advanced measures to slow the transmission of this highly contagious virus,” CNB CEO Chuck Garrett said. “Our responsibility to our patrons and employees, in addition to the latest CDC guidelines, has triggered a cautionary but temporary suspension of our casino operations to the public. The safety and health of our communities, patrons and employees are paramount. It is our hope that taking these preventive measures will minimize everyone’s risk of exposure.”
Though gaming operations inside Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs have been temporarily suspended, spring racing continues with restrictions.
The grandstand is limited to Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission-licensed trainers, jockeys, owners, grooms and outriders until further notice, according to a CNB press release.
Full racing calendar and stakes races will run as scheduled, with no spectators, and races will be broadcast on TVG through a continued partnership with the horse racing network, the release states.
Beginning March 17 -31, the Cherokee Heritage Center CN retail operations and museums temporarily shut down, which included the Cherokee National History Museum, Cherokee National Prison Museum, Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum, John Ross Museum, CN gift shops in Tahlequah and inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, as well as CN-owned and -operated welcome centers in Catoosa and Kansas, Oklahoma, according to a CN press release.
As of March 24, CNB officials temporarily shut down Cherokee Federal, its brand of diversified businesses, and Cherokee Nation Industries at its facilities in Stilwell and Pryor. They were also closed until March 31.