The owner of TempleLive says a decision has not yet been made on continuing with a May 15 concert that state officials have ordered to be canceled. Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (May 13) said he hopes “common sense would prevail” to avoid a concert day showdown.
TempleLive, operating in the former Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith, announced 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. TempleLive promoters said they have in place numerous safety protocols that go further than even those for churches and other indoor gatherings. The concert has gained national attention with publications addressing the conflict between TempleLive and state health officials including Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and Bloomberg.
The May 15 date is three days before the state directive of May 18 for limited reopening of indoor venues. The concert date was set before the May 18 date was announced.
Lance Beaty, owner of Beaty Capital Group which owns and manages TempleLive, told Talk Business & Politics he and lawyers are “carefully evaluating the content of the cease and desist.” He said an announcement will be made at a 1 p.m., Thursday press conference at TempleLive.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith sent a 4-page cease and desist order Tuesday to TempleLive suggesting that Beaty and others could face “administrative penalties, a civil or criminal fine or imprisonment, if convicted, or all of the above.” (Link here for a PDF copy of the order.)
Gov. Hutchinson was reticent to offer details when asked Wednesday about his response if the order is not followed.
“I don’t want to go too far down that path,” the governor said. “This is Wednesday, and the concert is set for Friday. We just issued the cease and desist order. We expect compliance with that. Our enforcement capacity can utilize local enforcement because this is an enforceable order that we have in place, and there could be other remedies as well. … I would think that common sense would prevail and they will follow the direction of the cease and desist order.”
The governor pushed back on an argument by TempleLive that the concert is no different than church gatherings which have been allowed to resume with limitations. He said the May 18 date is the hard determinant in this issue.
“That [May 18 date] is the fundamental point, is that they knew in advance that this was the target date. They’ve proceeded on with this in violation of the directive,” he said.
Aric Mitchell, public information officer for the Fort Smith Police Department, said they have not been notified by state officials about possibly enforcing the order.
“As of Wednesday morning, we had not received official correspondence at the state level regarding a need for our involvement regarding enforcement action of the cease-and-desist,” Mitchell noted in a statement to Talk Business & Politics. “We definitely understand where the Governor’s and ADH’s safety concerns are coming from. We do have our own protocols we haven’t made public regarding enforcement action once a violation has occurred, but that would not include pre-policing anything. So far, Fort Smith has done quite well with understanding and respecting the safety protocols, and the FSPD has adopted a community policing approach of educating, explaining, and having conversations. To date, that has been enough. Our hope is that that continues to be the case.”