Arkansas governor shuts down Travis McCready's socially-distanced concert on May 15, threatens police action

A cease-and-desist order has been issued against the event because it is being held on May 15, while the reopening doesn't officially begin until May 18


                            Arkansas governor shuts down Travis McCready's socially-distanced concert on May 15, threatens police action
Travis McCready (Getty Images)

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is reinforcing the state's plan to block a Travis McCready concert which is scheduled for Friday (May 15). Law enforcement will be utilized if necessary and a cease-and-desist order has been issued against the event on May 12.

The concert was scheduled to take place at the TempleLive venue in Fort Smith with a social-distancing initiative of "fan pods" and safety measures in place. The show was planned as an experiment in reopening the concert industry by stock analysts, ahead of Live Nation's quarterly earnings last week, although the event is not promoted or produced by the company.

In Arkansas, indoor venues can reopen on May 18 at reduced capacity, provided they follow the social distancing measures. TempleLive has said they were reducing their capacity to 20% — from 1,100 to just 229 — but Hutchinson's order has been issued because the McCready concert is being held on May 15, while the reopening doesn't officially begin until May 18.

"We’ve looked at their plan and their plan is insufficient," Hutchinson said during a 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."

The governor was told by a reporter that promoters haven't agreed to reschedule the event, according to Variety. To this, Hutchinson replied, "I’m not aware of that information. We issued a cease-and-desist order and we expect the law to be complied with. (Any attempt to go ahead with the concert) would be disappointing and obviously would encounter some consequences if that’s the direction that they pursue." He added, “I think the patrons, when they know the concert should not happen under Department of Health guidelines, would use their good judgment and not attend.”

Another reporter asked what those consequences might entail. "I don’t want to go too far down that path", the governor responded. "Our enforcement capacity can utilize local law enforcement, because this is an enforceable order in place, and there could be other remedies as well. So let’s take this a step at a time and I’d think common sense would prevail and they’d follow the direction of the cease-and-desist order," he said.

When asked by a third reporter about the promoter’s questions on how a concert venue differs from a church (where limited public gathering is allowed), Hutchinson pointed out that Friday’s scheduled concert is not in compliance with the official reopening mandate and that the promoter is aware of that fact. Another state official noted significant differences between churches and concert venues, as well as the fact that the concert is "expecting people from different states, so that increases the risk of Covid-19 infection".

Mike Brown, the concert's promoter, told Arkansas’ 40-29 News on May 12 that the cease-and-desist order was "really disappointing". He said, "I was a little bit blindsided, and to hear that at the press conference was a little disconcerting."

He noted, "We’ve pulled it back at 20% capacity and it’s still not good enough." Brown said he was awaiting a copy of the cease-and-desist order and will make a decision on May 14, adding, “I mean, I think music is essential and clearly it is not agreed upon.” 

The governor also issued a statement on Wednesday (May 13) that reads, "We would welcome the concert under different circumstances but the health and safety of music patrons is most important." The statement continues, "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."

Tickets for the Travis McCready concert remain on sale as of Wednesday afternoon.

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