The two-day Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival in Fort Smith, which failed to meet COVID-19-related masking and social distancing regulations during the weekend event, was among 36 venues receiving either verbal warnings or citations for falling short of the rules by agents visiting businesses July 13-26.

Five agents with state Alcoholic Beverage Control worked with staff and volunteers during the festival to keep people distanced and wearing face coverings, but it proved impossible to manage as people crowded vendor and bar areas. Organizers of the three-day festival were cited July 25 for “Failure to Maintain Health, Safety and Sanitary Standards” under Title I of ABC rules).

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Asked at Monday’s virus press conference why it wasn’t anticipated that a music festival might have problems, Governor Hutchinson said the safety plan submitted by the organizers to the Arkansas Department of Health looked good. (The ABC issued a liquor permit on the basis of the plan.) However, Hutchinson said, it the plan failed in its execution.

Also on July 25, Paragould agents issued a verbal warning to L.A.’s Grill and Lounge for “Failure to be a Good Neighbor” (also under Title I) after agents there observed customers dancing and moving around the venue without face coverings. Bartenders were also not wearing masks. The permittee, identified in the ABC reports only as Utlee, did not take the visit seriously, agents reported. “He told us that everybody in the bar had a health issue and they should be exempt from wearing any type of face coverings. He further told us that nobody in Greene County had died from Covid-19 and that’s another reason they should have to go by this bullshit (the rules).” Agents also said “several people were very intoxicated in the bar” but were still being served.

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Agents reported violations at bars, private clubs, restaurants and a liquor store in Jonesboro, Conway, Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village, Fountain Lake, Lonsdale, Cabot, Texarkana, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs and Little Rock (the Six Ten Center on July 25, “Failure to be a Good Neighbor,” after complaint filed). CORRECTION: Six Ten Center was given a verbal warning, rather than a citation of violation.

Agents visited 436 businesses in 22 counties during the two-week period. ABC Director Doralee Chandler will rule on the violations; her rulings may be appealed. Violations are punishable by “the full range of administrative sanctions and penalties against the subject permit,” according to the rule. Reports are here and here.

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