Arkansas venue to host one of the US’ first “Socially Distanced” concerts

Posted by on May 6, 2020


The state of Arkansas is attempting to get back to some semblance of “life-as-we-knew-it” by becoming the second state to start allowing for “socially distanced” concerts to take place. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Monday that the state will be reopening concert venues starting on May 18. One venue, however, is looking to get a show in before the reopening is set to take place. 

Billboard is reporting that TempleLive in Fort Smith, AR will be hosting an “intimate acoustic set” from Bishop Gunn frontman Travis McCready on May 15. 

TempleLive will attempt to reopen with an extensive list of changes, including capacity. The 1,100-capacity venue will be reducing seating by 80% to ultimately accommodate 229 patrons spread out into what Ticketmaster is calling “fan pods,” groupings of 2 to 12 seats spaced at least six feet apart so people who have not been social distancing together can comfortably watch. 

In addition to seating, the venue’s restrooms will have a 10-person limit and be outfitted with no-touch soap and paper towel dispensers. A third-party cleaning crew will also be sanitizing the entire venue before all shows with employees wiping down frequent touch points throughout the night. The venue will also only be selling beverages and snacks that are pre-packaged or lided.

Fans will also be required to do their part. Everyone in attendance must wear a face mask at all times, as well as be subjected to a temperature check before entering the venue. They will also be directed to follow one-way walk ways so that social distancing runs smoothly.

Governor Hutchinson’s announcement makes Arkansas the second state to attempt a reopening of the entertainment industry. Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced late last week that businesses, including concert venues, would gradually reopen starting May 4. No shows have been announced in the state yet.

Said Hutchinson in a press release (reported by Billboard):

“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. 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.”

TempleLive’s reopening, though it comes very close to meeting the state’s guidelines (the only one it doesn’t seem to meet is the capacity restriction of 50 patrons), is still set to happen three days before Hutchinson’s May 18 reopening date. The venue’s owners, however, believe that they will be okay to operate under the state’s guidelines, given that Hutchinson has a tendency to update directives and that other kinds of venues are already operating without the same restrictions. Said vice president of entertainment/clubs and theaters for Beaty Capital (parent company of TempleLive) Mike Brown to Billboard, “We actually just got off a conversation with the state health department. The governor has done a great job with his administration and how he has handled this. If you are a church, there are no restrictions on how many people you can have inside as long as they follow CDC guidelines and stay six feet apart. So our position is, a public gathering is a public gathering regardless of the reason, whether you are going to go to a quilting event, a church or a concert. Tell me the difference, because in our opinion it is discriminatory.”

“We’ve got a lot of time and there is an open line of communication and I am the eternal optimist,” continued Brown. “I think we will be alright.”

Following McCready, the next show lined up for TempleLive Fort Smith is August 22 with Ronnie Milsap. A full list of shows at the venue can be found on their website.

While restrictions are being lifted in states like Arkansas and Missouri, many experts believe that the concert industry won’t get back to normal until at least next year. There is concern in the medical community that gathering too soon could lead to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Many are also concerned that concert goers afraid of contracting the virus may stay away from large gatherings until testing is more widely available or a vaccine is approved.

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