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Arkansas orders venue not to defy restrictions with concert

May 12, 2020 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has ordered a large theater to abandon its plans to defy the state’s coronavirus restrictions on gatherings by holding what could be the nation’s first major concert this far into the pandemic.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that the state Health Department was sending a cease and desist letter to the Fort Smith venue, TempleLive, to postpone or cancel a concert Friday night by country rock singer Travis McCready. The event, which is expected to draw more than 200 people, would be held three days before Arkansas allows large indoor entertainment venues to reopen.

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“You can’t just arbitrarily decide when the restrictions are lifted. That is something that is done based upon a public health requirement,” Hutchinson told reporters.

The state is allowing theaters, arenas and other entertainment venues to open Monday, but with a cap of 50 people in the audience. Hutchinson said last weekend that the 50-person limit was being revised to allow venues to fill to one-third capacity if they submit a plan approved by the state.

TempleLive did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday afternoon. Organizers have said they planned to reduce capacity at the former Masonic temple from 1,100 people to 229 for the show and to implement other rules, including requiring patrons to wear masks and to have their temperatures checked at the door.

TempleLive on Monday said it planned to move forward with the show after Hutchinson called organizers plans “insufficient.”

“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,” Lance Beaty, president Beaty Capital Group Inc., the venue’s parent owner, said Monday. “However, in these complex matters, general policies and directives are not always best as ‘one size fits all.’”

Arkansas was one of a handful of states that didn’t issue a stay-at-home order, though the state imposed other restrictions that it began rolling back in recent days.

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Check out more of the AP’s coronavirus coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak