Concert billed as first live show in pandemic ordered by Arkansas to cease and desist

The venue for the Travis McCready concert on Friday said it cut capacity to 229 people, but the governor said, "You can’t just arbitrarily determine when the restrictions are lifted."
Travis McCready performs in Milan in 2019.
Travis McCready performs in Milan in 2019.Sergione Infuso / Corbis via Getty Images

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

An Arkansas venue planning to hold a country music concert with more than 200 people on Friday will be served a cease-and-desist letter, the state's governor said Tuesday.

"You can’t just arbitrarily determine when the restrictions are lifted. That is something that is done based on a public health requirement," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a news conference regarding an "intimate solo acoustic performance with Travis McCready" scheduled for May 15 at the Temple Live event space.

The Arkansas Department of Health issued a directive last week that said that starting on May 18, indoor venues could hold events with 50 people or fewer, and must adhere to other guidelines like arranging seating 6 feet apart. Venues that wanted to hold events with more than 50 people must be operating at less than 34 percent capacity and also submit a plan to the department.

"Clearly, it is three days before we determined it was an appropriate time to open up to a limited capacity in some of those informal venues, and even if you’re going to have 250 people at a venue, you still have to have a specific plan that would be approved by the Department of Health. None of that was done in this case," Hutchinson said of the McCready show.

The Department of Health will be sending the venue a cease-and-desist letter, Hutchinson said. On Wednesday morning, tickets for the show were still on sale.

A message seeking comment from Temple Live, which is in Fort Smith on the border of Oklahoma, went unanswered Wednesday.

Mike Brown, a venue spokesperson, told NBC affiliate KNWA last month that as far as he knows, the show is the first announced since coronavirus shutdowns began in March. He said the event would be in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“Our capacity is 1,100 and we’ve scaled it down to 229 to meet CDC recommendations for social distancing,” he said.

Brown said seating was arranged in clusters 6 feet apart. “That group would have to be the people that you’ve been home with, your family members, or someone that you’re comfortable being in that 6-foot social distance space,” he said.

And concertgoers would have their temperatures taken before entering.

Asked at the time what the venue would do if such events weren't permitted by May 15, Brown said: "We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it."