UPDATE (5/12): The Arkansas Department of Health is issuing a cease and desist order to TempleLive, the Fort Smith, Arkansas, venue that is set to stage the country’s first pandemic concert on May 15th. Blues-rock singer Travis McCready is scheduled to perform Friday under strict social-distancing and safety protocols. “In terms of the concert, there will be a cease and desist order that will be issued by the Department of Health directing that that concert not take place, which is an official legal order and directive that will go out,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson during his Tuesday press conference.
Despite promising strict safety protocols — including “fan pod” seating to maintain six feet of social distancing — the May 15th concert by Travis McCready at TempleLive in Fort Smith, Arkansas, has yet to receive approval from the state’s government.
According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the show will be held three days before concerts — at a 50-person maximum capacity — are officially allowed to resume in the state on May 18th. The TempleLive show intends to host 229 fans.
“We’ve looked at their plan and their plan is insufficient,” Hutchinson said during his Monday press conference. “That concert does not have our approval. It would happen three days before the authorized date, and it has a few other problems.”
In a statement Monday evening, TempleLive said the concert is moving forward. “In response to Governor Hutchinson’s comments today, TempleLive currently plans to conduct the Travis McCready concert at its Fort Smith, Arkansas, venue on Friday, May 15th, as scheduled,” it read in part. “The COVID-19 precautions and practices established by TempleLive have accumulated interest from other entertainment establishments and are being adopted and implemented worldwide. We believe that the ‘Fan-Pod’ seating model along with other innovative safety protocols that have been adopted by TempleLive create a safe and comfortable environment, and are the next logical steps in bringing live entertainment back to the stage.”
According to TempleLive’s “COVID Operating Protocol,” the venue’s safety precautions include sanitizing the theater with disinfectant fog just before doors open, taking fans’ temperatures at the entrance, and restricting the direction of pedestrian traffic.
“By no means is anyone involved in this wanting to promote anything done negligently,” McCready, the former singer of the blues-rock band Bishop Gunn, told Rolling Stone last week. “I’d rather promote something where it can happen in the safest way possible for now.”
The concert will likely hold the distinction of being the U.S.’s first pandemic concert, assuming it moves forward.
Lance Beaty, president of Beaty Capital Group Inc., the parent company of TempleLive, says it will. “We believe that our discussions … with the state have been productive and will lead to a resolution that protects the rights of people to assemble, and will allow them to do so in an environment that protects the health and safety of the public, the artists, and our employees,” he said in a statement.
TempleLive’s proposed safety precautions are among a number of live-music ideas being floated by the industry. On Tuesday, the Texas Rangers announced the lineup for the Concert in Your Car festival, a four-day series of shows by country artists like Eli Young Band, Whiskey Myers, and Josh Abbott Band, held on a stage in the parking lot outside Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.