The show, an intimate acoustic set from Bishop Gunn frontman Travis McCready, was supposed to take place on May 15, three days before the state of Arkansas was set to lift lockdown restrictions.
Governor Asa Hutchinson said during a press conference on Tuesday that he would be issuing a cease-and-desist order to the venue, stating:
“You can’t just arbitrarily determine when the restrictions are lifted. That is something that is done based on a public health requirement.”
Despite lowering capacity to 229 seats sold in “fan pods” of two to six and implementing a host of safety restrictions (constant cleaning and sanitizing, temperature checks, face mask requirements, etc.) the state says that none of it was run past the state before the show was announced. Said Hutchinson:
“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 announced last week that concert venues could reopen on May 18 with restrictions on capacity and social distancing. According to the Arkansas Department of Health (as reported by NBC), venues will only be allowed a capacity of 50 patrons or less with a mandatory six-foot distance between each person.
“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.”
“We are attempting to move past the restrictions that have been necessary during this pandemic, but we must do so in a manner that is based on solid data,” said Hutchinson in a press release last week announcing the reopening. “I am confident this measured reopening is the best approach that will allow us to enjoy these entertainment venues again. As we cautiously emerge from this difficult time, we will keep an eye on data for any evidence that we are moving too quickly.”
Arkansas is the second of two states (the other being Missouri) to relax restrictions on concert gatherings, though there have not been any other live events reported to take place in the near future in either state.