Last week, Arkansas venue TempleLive announced that Travis McCready would be playing a socially-distanced show in Fort Smith — the first show to take place since venues were essentially shut down in March.
Now, after threatening to do so since the announcement of that show, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has issued a cease-and-desist order and warned that the state wouldn’t be afraid to “utilize local law enforcement.”
According to Rolling Stone, the state’s state’s secretary of health, Nathaniel Smith, also told the venue that “Your failure to comply with this order and postpone your event to be in compliance with the health directives will result in a violation of the Arkansas public health code.”
The state is scheduled to reopen on May 18. However, this show, which would take place three days ahead of the initial reopening, would have 229 people in attendance, violating the state’s edict that venues couldn’t have more than 50 people attending.
Assigned seats for the show would be at least six feet apart per grouping in what Ticketmaster is calling “fan pods.” As fans enter the venue, they’ll be required to wear face masks (including the venue’s employees), have their temperatures taken at the door as well.
“We issued the cease-and-desist order and we expect the law to be complied with,” Hutchinson said at a press conference on Wednesday. He elaborated to say that the venue’s precautions for the show wouldn’t matter since they fall outside of the state’s reopening parameters.
In a statement obtained by SPIN, Hutchinson elaborated on his press conference comments.
“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,” the statement read.
“I guess an episode of Cops or Tiananmen Square in China,” TempleLive owner Mike Brown told Rolling Stone. “We’re a fine member of this community. We just spent a multi-million investment in a great market that needed it. It’s such an opportunity for the state of Arkansas — with all of the light that has shined on this event — to really have a great showing and I think that politics is getting in the way.”
SPIN has reached out to the department of health and the venue for more information.
You can check out more of what Smith had to say below.