Arkansas Is Hosting One of the Pandemic's First Socially-Distanced Concerts

Travis McCready, Bishop Gunn
Sergione Infuso/Corbis via Getty Images

Burne Sharp, Travis McCready and Ben Lewis of Bishop Gunn open for Slash of Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators at Fabrique Club on March 8, 2019 in Milan, Italy.

Bishop Gunn frontman Travis McCready will perform in Fort Smith with assigned seats at least six feet apart per grouping of what Ticketmaster is calling "fan pods."

Travis McCready is ready to start performing again with a concert in Arkansas scheduled for next week.

The frontman of country rock band Bishop Gunn is set to take the stage at TempleLive in Fort Smith on May 15, for what will likely be one of the first live concert events since mass gatherings were banned across the U.S. in mid-March due to the spread of the coronavirus.

McCready will perform for a socially-distanced crowd that has been assigned seats at least six feet apart per grouping of what Ticketmaster is calling "fan pods." Tickets can only be purchased in these pods of two to 12 seats to avoid mingling amongst groups that have not been social distancing together.

According to the show's Ticketmaster page, TempleLive's 1,100 capacity theater will be reduced by 80% for a total of 229 available seats. All those in attendance will be required to wear face masks -- which will be available for purchase at the event -- and there will be a 10-person limit on each bathroom and all soap and paper towel dispensers will be no touch. All beverages at the event will be prepackaged or have lids.

Fans will also have to get their temperature taken when they arrive and employees will be actively wiping down touch points in the venue and restrooms. Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, fans will be directed by venue staff through one-way walk ways to maintain socially distancing throughout the event.

Prior to the May 15 show, the venue will be sanitized by an independent third party prior to each event via fog sprayers.

On Monday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that indoor venues could resume live shows as of May 18 -- three days after McCready's show is set to take place. A representative for Fort Smith Mayor George B. McGill confirmed with Billboard that the city would follow the state's guidelines for reopening concerts.

The governor's directive says venues can open up with fewer than 50 people in attendance and "requires strict social distance among performers, contestants, and members of the audience."

“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,” Hutchinson said in a release. “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 is confident that McCready's show can go forward given the Governor's history of amending directives and orders once presented with additional information. Venue owners Beaty Capital believes the Governor's office will allow for the show's capacity and date prior to the May 15 date.

"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," TempleLive's Mike Brown tells Billboard. "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."

Brown adds: "We’ve got a lot of time and there is an open line of communication and I am the eternal optimist. I think we will be alright."

The governor's directive also requires hand sanitizer stations at all exits and entrances, every other row of seating should be unoccupied, and lines or queues for entrance, exit, making purchases, or for other reasons must be marked or monitored to maintain six feet between people.

UPDATE: This article was updated at 7:20 p.m. EST on May 5 to include quotes from Mike Brown.

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