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Grace Scarra, beverage manager of casino operations at Harrah's Resort Southern California, pours Pumpkin Spice and every good holiday cocktail into a graham cracker-wrapped glass. His "office" includes the casino's bar and the Spiked lobby.
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A rough day at "the office" for Grace Scarra means trying cocktail recipes. Again and again.
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As the beverage manager for casino operations at Harrah's Resort Southern California—a San Diego-area casino known for industry-trending drinks like the Smoked Old Fashioned—Scarra's job is to create drinks that use the latest techniques, the most popular ingredients and the catchiest names. .
"We put these ideas in our heads and turned to our amazing staff and said, 'Can you build this?' "And then it's trial and error,” Scarra said. “Tasting everything is the greatest privilege of my job."
"I follow trends on social media and go to bars to see what other people are doing," he says with a slightly guilty smile.
"I think people think it's too easy," he said, adding that the cocktail had a lot of bugs during its trial period. "Sometimes we have to do it 10, 20 times to get it right."
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"I had this idea for a mezcal cocktail. I said, 'This will be the best cocktail.' He said he knew it was mezcal they were using; there was only one brand at the bar. "It's very smoky, very strong. It's interesting how one liquor can change everything." Spiked, the casino's club lounge, currently has four different cocktails, but no mezcal-specific cocktails.
Scarra has been an employee of Harrah's Resort SoCal for 14 years, starting at age 18. Too young to drink at the time, her first job was as a restaurant hostess. After the age of 21, he moved into the world of bars and later became a supervisor.
On a recent morning, Scarra sat behind the bar at Spiked and prepared the four cocktails on the menu for the holiday season. To make the drink, he brought in A-list equipment, including a copper shaker and jigger and a special brass brand that put the Harrah's logo on a large round ice cube. He's also added a few unique touches, such as a glass-topped cocktail rim in a creamy pumpkin spice and all-you-can-eat cocktail, and dehydrated apple slices as a topping for a Little Brown Apple Cinnamon Old Fashioned.
When he was younger, his tastes turned to the sweeter, easy-drinking cocktails that most women preferred. Now, he focuses more on alcohol, which is more popular with men, he said. His personal cocktail of choice is the Old Fashioned (bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar and bitters) or his cousin the Sazerac (rye whiskey or brandy, absinthe or licorice flavored liqueur, bitters and sugar cubes).
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"I only drink fruit drinks, I don't want to try alcohol. Now I can't," Scarra said. "It's the same with wine. I used to drink mochatos, which have notes of honey and orange blossom, but That now it is big, bold cabernets.
When she's not at work, the married mother of two children, ages 8 and 10, likes to stay not far from her home in Temecula. He enjoys staying at hotels in San Diego, Carlsbad and Big Bear and exploring the area. She said her husband likes to travel far. But he is dedicated to the SoCal life.
Back at the office, at the bar - Scarra says he and the mixology team like to mix it up for their customers - who want to be creative in the glass, not just the alcohol.
"When they come to Spiked, they want something refreshing, they want a strong, artisanal cocktail," he said. "Most of the customers who come into this bar don't order a simple cocktail. They step out of their comfort zone."
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San Diego Insiders see what talented artists bring to the stage, screen, gallery and more. Harrah's Resort Southern California in Valley Center Posted on September 3, 2020. Former executives are suing the casino for reopening. (Zoe Meyers/)
The top manager of Harrah's Resort in Southern California, who resigned days before the casino reopened, is suing his employer, alleging that management ignored his concerns that the decision was dangerous and could expose travelers to COVID-19. Claiming that he was forced to. .
Darrell Pilant, former general manager and senior vice president of Valley Center Casino, filed a lawsuit against Caesars Entertainment Inc. in San Diego Superior Court on Monday. He said the company's decision to reopen in May had "serious health and safety implications for employees and customers infected with COVID-19."
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This week, 217 local residents with COVID-19 reported being at the casino within two weeks of becoming ill. 12 people were treated at the hospital and one, a casino patron, died.
Nine tribal casinos in San Diego County reopened in May with limited operations, about two months after being closed due to COVID-19. Because they are in sovereign territory, they are not subject to local health regulations that other businesses are ordered to close.
The county's nine casino-related jobs include 76 people and 141 guests, county spokeswoman Sarah Sweeney said. He noted that even if those who tested positive visited the casino during the vulnerable period, it does not mean that they were infected with the coronavirus there.
The Rincon band of Luiseño Indians owns the Valley Center Casino. It uses revenue from the resort to fund tribal government services for more than 500 members and 5,000 acres of reservation land. The tribe contracted with Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment, the largest gaming company in the United States.
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Tribal casinos are located on sovereign land, which means they are not under the jurisdiction of state or local health authorities. When they reopened after being closed for nearly two months, many other businesses in the city remained closed.
Bo Mazzetti, president of the Rincon band, said in a recent newsletter that the tribe "has really taken the lead" to coordinate the reopening with other tribes and government officials.
"Rincon's position is that someone needs to take responsibility and do something about Indian tribes and reservations across the state," he wrote in a newsletter.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and local health officials opposed the decision to reopen. In a letter to tribal leaders, Newsom said he understands the importance of casinos in funding state services. But, he wrote, "I cannot emphasize enough that the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains a serious threat to all Californians."
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In his lawsuit, Pilant said he repeatedly assured Newsom and the county that he was "on board" with the reopening. Despite ongoing health and safety risk concerns for management, Mr Pilant said the company had given him "illegal and dangerous" advice to manage the reopening.
He called it "right and wrong" and what Caesar did was wrong. "His last day on the job was May 21, the day before Harrah's reopened its casino doors.
According to Pilant's lawsuit, he was "constructively terminated" and entitled to a cut equal to his salary in one year under his contract, which was not included in court documents. He is also seeking unspecified damages.
A Harrah's Resort Southern California sign advertises the casino on Valley Center Road, Sept. 3, 2020. (Zoë Meyers/)
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A nearly 23-year employee of Caesars Entertainment, Pilant held positions with companies in other states before coming to Harrah's Resort Southern California in 2011. He was promoted to CEO in 2016, overseeing all casino operations.
Rincon, which declined to comment on the matter through a spokesman, did not name the defendants. No cases of COVID-19 have been identified at the resort or on the reservation, Mazzetti was quoted in the August 26 Valley Roadrunner.
Find their job numbers. Officials from the Kumeyaay Nation of the Sycuan Band, which owns the Sycuan CasinoResort in East County, confirmed earlier that the casino is working with the county to investigate cases involving people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The casino has changed some of its security measures since reopening, said Ilko, who is president of the National Casino Security Association of India. Sycuan banned smoking in some parts of the resort, required more durable face masks than bandanas and gaiters, and added staff to enforce the policy.
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Casinos have also increased surveillance resources to track the movements of those who later test positive, he said. This makes it easy to alert visitors or workers who are within six feet of an infected person.
Sweeney said the county works closely with tribal health agencies on an individual basis
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