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 the first concert 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.”
Brown said that the venue was told that the only requirement TempleLive was not compliant with for hosting the show on May 18th was that everyone be required to wear masks. He added that the venue is “in the process of submitting that application and at the point that we have approval from the state, we will make those changes to that show date… The tickets that you have bought will be good for that show.”
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 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.”