In a press conference-turned-concert today onstage at its 1,100-person capacity theater in Fort Smith, the owners of Temple Live announced they would move the date for their venue’s controversial May 15 Travis McCready (of Bishop Gunn) concert to fall within the state’s directives for opening large indoor venues. The concert’s move to May 18 follows a cease and desist order issued earlier this week from the Arkansas Department of Health, as well as a permit suspension today from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
Directives from the state allow large indoor venues to open May 18, with additional sanitation and screening requirements, as well as restrictions on capacity. During today’s press conference, venue owners took the chance to summarize their objections, challenging the constitutionality of the state’s decision, and mentioning Plato, the right to peaceably assemble and a Sonny Curtis lyric.
Citing the state’s actions, venue owner Mike Brown reiterated some of the sentiments he expressed to us last week, adding: “Doesn’t feel like America by me. Due to the actions, we are applying to move this show to May 18 … against our will.” Brown maintained that though the venue would apply to reschedule the concert, that it believed the state “just got it wrong,” and that it would not rule out taking legal action against the state.
“The entertainment world has been watching this from around the world,” Brown said. The people in the entertainment industry, they’re out of work across this country because we’ve shut down because of this virus.” Brown noted the acts who have played the venue in years past — Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Arkansas’s own Ashley McBryde. “At the end of the day,” Brown said, “we fought the law, and the laws won.”
Lance Beaty, president of Beaty Capital Group Inc., parent company of TempleLive, LLC , also expressed his disappointment. “That being said, I’m not the governor,” Beaty said, “and I don’t have a lot of good options. … We recognize, and I think the statutes allow that during emergency states may implement measures that infringe on constitutional rights, but the state is subject to limitations. The cease and desist order has no real substantial relation to science or medical fact. It’s a coercive cease and desist order, and now we’ve experienced the ABC coming in and ripping our license off the wall as we’ve contemplated what to do. So we’ve been preemptively damaged. As I understand it, there’s a right to peacefully assemble. … We have the right to be treated equally … the right to engage in interstate commerce, and the right to present an artistic event using safety measures that were developed right here in this building and are being adopted around the world.”
“We stood up for our rights politely and civilly,” Beaty said, “… and then in a discourteous manner during his press conference, the governor reversed himself from Friday to Monday, and the politics of power got involved. And I guess the governor wants me to say, ‘We’ll move the show.’ I hope you’re happy.”
“It’s a show,” Beaty said, “but what it represents to the world is hope. It represents one step that people can possibly get the lives back that they had. … Those hopes were dashed today.”
John Scott, the venue’s attorney, also commented. “This has not been something to thumb our nose at public health,” he said, “or thumb its nose at authority. Temple Live is a raindrop in the storm, compared to everybody else’s rights.” Likening the state to a bully in a schoolyard, Scott described the revocation of the venue’s ABC license. “They walked in the building, took the license and left.”
Travis McCready, accompanied by musician Lauren Brown, played a tune he’d introduced earlier with a simple address: “My name is Travis McCready, and I’m here to play music in the safest way I can.”