MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The gates of Graceland have been locked for just over two months, but, that comes to an end Thursday morning, as guests are welcomed back.
Only ten guests will be allowed inside the Graceland mansion at one time. Elvis Presley Enterprises Managing Partner Joel Weinshanker says generally they can move 50 to 60 people through the home at once.
Weinshanker calls the limited tours the royal treatment which is now bestowed on all guests.
"14 years ago then-President Bush brought the Prime Minister of Japan on a tour and it was called the royal tour. Everyone for the next few weeks is going to be getting a royal tour," he said.
Graceland employees will wear masks. Guests are not required to wear masks, but, every guest will have their temperature checked before making their way onto the property.
Guests will still be given the personal iPads and headphones used for the tour but Weinshanker says they'll be cleaned after each use.
For Graceland, the two months of closure at the start of its peak time, which runs from mid-March until Elvis Week, will account for millions in losses, Weinshanker said.
He says he's no longer taking a salary and top executives have had their salaries decreased. Reopening now, doesn't change that, he said.
"It's really about helping Memphis, Shelby County and the state of Tennessee reopen. Tourism is so important to the city and county and state. We're going to be losing money for a long while. We're actually going to lose more money by opening than not but this is really about getting people in Memphis back to work, getting the tourism dollars. We don't have a state income tax, the sales tax is so important," he said.
Weinshanker says they've also been asked by the Shelby County Health Department to show what best practices can be put in place for businesses and attractions when it comes to tourism.
"The biggest responsibility we feel, not only is it to get tourism back, is to show how this can be done in the most responsible way," he said.
Due to operating at a low capacity, not all employees are being asked to return to work. At the Graceland Guest House, 101 employees have been laid-off.
"If we don't think we're going to be able to bring someone back for nine months, what's in their best interest is to continue to get enhanced unemployment while looking for other employment. We want to give people as long as of a runway," he said. "There are people that we think are the best at what they do and we looked at it and say what's best for them and that's a hard decision."
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