TempleLive sets May 15 concert; Harry’s Downtown shuts its doors

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 3,399 views 

TempleLive in downtown Fort Smith is attempting to “lean forward” during the COVID-19 pandemic and open its doors for a May 15 concert. But just a few blocks west, the owners of Harry’s Downtown are shutting the doors for good.

TempleLive, operating in the former Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith, announced Thursday (April 23) that singer-guitarist Travis McCready, formerly with the Southern Rock Band Bishop Gunn, will perform an acoustic set at 8 p.m. on May 15.

Lance Beaty, owner of Beaty Capital Group, the parent company of TempleLive, said information was sought from “multiple sources to develop a responsible approach to mitigate risk, and to allow the performance to go forward.” A key part of that effort is an 80% reduction in seating, from 1,100 to just 229 seats. Other efforts include pre- and post-show disinfection, entry temperature screening, continuous antiseptic wipe down of high touch surfaces, distance seating requirements (which separates groups of guests by six feet or more) and establishing one-way walking paths as recommended by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beaty said those who attend are encouraged to wear masks and masks will be available for purchase before the show.

“It is a step forward. We’re trying to lean forward into this and provide an example of how this can be done,” Beaty told Talk Business & Politics.

In a press release statement he noted: “At some point, we have to begin the return to normality. When and how to do that may be debated and discussed but sooner or later someone has to provide that blueprint for people to get out and start returning to the lives they once had. We have decided to take a part in leading that effort.”

Beaty acquired the historic 53,000-square-foot Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith in November 2014 in a $2.5 million deal. The three-story building at 200 N. 11th St. was built in 1928 and has numerous meeting rooms and a theatre capable of seating 900. It reopened as TempleLive in August 2017 after around $5 million in renovations.

Rob Engster and Jeff Gosey announced Thursday on a Facebook post that Harry’s Downtown, a bar and live music venue, is closing.

“It is with much regret that we announce Harry’s Downtown is closed for good. Not gonna sugar coat it. We came in with a dream of bringing both local and world class acts and packing the house. We built a beautiful, clean, smoke free venue in which to enjoy those acts. Evidently we screwed something up or this market is over saturated, I hope the latter. We struggled but kept re-investing time and money over the last two years. The COVID-19 was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” they noted.

Gosey, owner of AJ’s Oyster House in the Brunwick Place in downtown Fort Smith, said in early 2018 he was investing $100,000-plus in the venue. The operation was estimated to employ 10 to 15 people full-time, and feature a music side and a bar side, he said. The music side will be non-smoking, with smoking allowed on the bar side. The name was a tribute to the late Harry Schwartz, a downtown property owner who in the 1980s and 1990s owned the Hamburger Barn, one of the few restaurants in downtown Fort Smith.

Engster and Gosey said the bar is for sale.

“We love you Downtown Fort Smith. Keep on keepin’ on,” they noted in the Facebook post.