TempleLive to stick with May 15 concert; Gov. Hutchinson said the event ‘violates our directives’

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,296 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday (May 11) a concert at TempleLive in Fort Smith is in violation of state guidelines for reopening indoor venues and has not been approved. TempleLive officials say they are sticking to the May 15 concert date.

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. 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.

On May 4, Gov. Hutchinson announced that large indoor venues could begin to reopen May 18, three days after the scheduled concert. Some of the Arkansas Department of Health guidelines for reopening large indoor and outdoor venues include a 12-foot distance between performers and audience, 50 or fewer performers/players/contestants, audience of 50 or fewer people, every other row should be unoccupied, face coverings for all attendees over 10 years of age, and no entry if having a recent fever or other symptoms.

When announcing the concert, 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.

On Friday, the governor noted that TempleLive promoters were “really trying to make an effort, a very stringent effort, to try to socially distance, to wear masks.” He said the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) was working with the promoters to determine if the concert could be held as scheduled.

But on Monday Gov. Hutchinson said the ADH has determined the concert is in violation of state guidelines.

“That violates our directives because we authorized those to be open on May 18. And so that has not been approved. We’ve looked at their plan and their plan was insufficient as well. That concert does not have our approval being three days before the authorized date as well as a few other problems,” he said during his daily COVID-19 briefing.

Lance Beaty, president of Beaty Capital Group which is the parent company of TempleLive said he appreciates the governor’s situation, but said state directives should not always be a “one size fits all” policy.

“Our counsel continues to be engaged in discussions with the state, even late this evening, and we hope that science and reason will produce a plan going forward that is satisfactory to all,” Beaty noted in a statement issued around 6:30 p.m. Monday. “We appreciate that the situations faced by the Governor and his staff are serious and complex, and much of Arkansas’s COVID-19 approach has been praiseworthy. However, in these complex matters, general policies and directives are not always best as ‘one size fits all.’ Therefore, as the needs of the 50 states are not identical, the conditions across the State of Arkansas are not either.”

Continuing, Beaty noted: “We believe that our discussions this evening with the State have been productive, and will lead to a resolution that protects the rights of people to assemble, and will allow them to do so in an environment that protects the health and safety of the public, the artists, and our employees.”

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.

Following is the full statement from TempleLive

In response to Governor Hutchinson’s comments today, TempleLive currently plans to conduct the Travis McCready concert at its Fort Smith, Arkansas venue on Friday, May 15th as scheduled.

The COVID19 precautions and practices established by TempleLive have accumulated interest from other entertainment establishments and are being adopted and implemented worldwide. We believe that the “Fan-Pod” seating model along with other innovative safety protocols which have been adopted by TempleLive create a safe and comfortable environment, and are the next logical steps in bringing live entertainment back to the stage.

Lance Beaty, President of Beaty Capital Group Inc., parent company of TempleLive, LLC said, “Our counsel continues to be engaged in discussions with the state, even late this evening, and we hope that science and reason will produce a plan going forward that is satisfactory to all. We appreciate that the situations faced by the Governor and his staff are serious and complex, and much of Arkansas’s COVID19 approach has been praiseworthy. However, in these complex matters, general policies and directives are not always best as “one size fits all”. Therefore, as the needs of the 50 states are not identical, the conditions across the State of Arkansas are not either.”

Beaty added, “We believe that our discussions this evening with the State have been productive, and will lead to a resolution that protects the rights of people to assemble, and will allow them to do so in an environment that protects the health and safety of the public, the artists, and our employees.”

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