Arkansas Governor Approves Pandemic Concert After Date Change
UPDATE (5/18): Travis McCready’s Monday night concert at TempleLive in Fort Smith, Arkansas, will stream live on Goldstar.com. Tickets are $12; the show begins at 8 p.m. CT. McCready’s concert is being billed as the “first live indoor concert since the COVID-19 shutdown.”
UPDATE: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson approved a planned concert in Fort Smith after organizers for venue TempleLive moved the date from this Friday to Monday, May 18th. “The fact that the concert promoter moved the date three days forward to May 18th showed that it is not that hard to abide by the same rules that apply to everyone else,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “They wanted an exception for an indoor concert no one else in Arkansas asked for or was allowed. We are grateful they determined that they should follow the directives and the law and do the right thing for not only the concertgoers, but also for the public in general.
“I’m delighted that on Monday, assuming their health plan can be approved by the Department of Health and proper security measures are taken, the concert can proceed and we can welcome them to the venue,” he added. “We are pleased to have a resolution and that the concert promoter recognized the need to follow the directives of the Department of Health.”
The Arkansas venue TempleLive is applying to move a May 15th concert from blues-rock singer Travis McCready to May 18th after receiving a cease-and-desist order from the state government. The show is being touted as one of the first concerts in America since stay-at-home guidelines began for most of the country two months ago.
At a press conference Thursday, promoter Mike Brown criticized the Arkansas government for its handling of the concert, noting that hours earlier the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board had revoked the venue’s alcohol permit. Brown claimed that the document he received from the ABC stated that “if we would publicly announce that we will move this show to May 18th, that they would bring our licenses back and let us continue doing business.”
Brown continued: “Doesn’t feel like America to me. It’s disheartening. So due to the actions by the State of Arkansas, by the Arkansas Health Department and the governor’s office, we are applying to move this show to May 18th to be in compliance with the directive from the Arkansas Department of Health and governor’s office. Against our will.”
However, Brown did not address whether the McCready concert would need to cut back on its audience size in order to move forward. The state guidelines for re-opening certain indoor venues on May 18th stipulate that audiences be no larger than 50 people. TempleLive had previously said it would lower its capacity from 1,100 to 229.
TempleLive, which is located in Fort Smith, Arkansas, announced the McCready show back in April when the state seemed ready to ease COVID-19 restrictions by May 4th. On its website, the venue shared a set of protocols designed to keep attendees safe, including reducing its capacity, sanitizing the venue prior to the event, and dividing the auditorium into seat clusters known as “Fan Pods” to keep all groups six feet apart from one another.
Eventually, Governor Asa Hutchinson moved the state’s partial re-open date back to May 18th, and while the new guidelines allowed for indoor venues, like theaters, to open “on a limited basis,” the protocols TempleLive had in place failed to meet those rules. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Brown said he believed concerts should have similar guidelines to church services. “The virus doesn’t know if it’s in a church or a high school gymnasium or a music venue,” he said. “I think there needs to be some clarity there.”
While Brown and TempleLive planned to move ahead with the concert, they faced pushback from Gov. Hutchinson, who said the concert “does not have our approval,” while the Arkansas Department of Health followed up with a cease-and-desist order.
In a statement shared with Rolling Stone on May 13th, Gov. Hutchinson said, “I would expect the concert promoter to cancel the event since it is in violation of the cease-and-desist order issued by our Department of Health. We would welcome the concert under different circumstances, but the health and safety of music patrons is most important. Arkansas is synonymous with music, whether it is the Delta blues; Ozark folk music; or the sound of artists from Glen Campbell to Johnny Cash. We can’t wait for the music to echo through the hills again.”
Should the TempleLive show in Fort Smith go forward on May 18th, though, it won’t be the first concert of the pandemic era. On Saturday May 16th, TempleLive will present a show with McCready and Lauren Brown at the Tall Pine’s Distillery in Pineville, Missouri. The outdoor concert has not faced much opposition as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced that concerts could be staged at any time after May 4th.
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