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Cease-And-Desist Order Issued Against 1st Concert As Arkansas Reopens

Updated Thursday at 3:40 p.m. ET

The Arkansas Department of Health has issued a cease-and-desist letter for what could have been the first indoor concert with an audience of more than 200 of the coronavirus era. The show was set to take place in Fort Smith, Ark., on Friday — three days before the state is set to allow businesses to open in a limited capacity.

In a press conference on Thursday, concert promoter TempleLive said it would abide by the state's mandates and postpone the event until May 18. This was only after the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Division revoked the venue's licenses. According to the organizers, a stipulation for getting those licenses back was to publicly postpone the event.

TempleLive originally announced the show in April, with certain safety precautions in place: Tickets were sold in groups that would be seated at least 6 feet apart; attendees would have their temperatures taken at entry points; and the normally 1,100-capacity venue would be reduced to 229 people. But the event still would have been in violation of the state's health directives.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a news conference Tuesday that he would issue a cease-and-desist warning to the venue, and later that day, the state health department followed through. The letter stressed that even after the state is set to allow businesses to open in a limited capacity on May 18, a "large indoor venue" would only be allowed to host 50 people or fewer.

According to the cease-and-desist letter, the state Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith had tried to get the event manager to postpone:

"On May 11, 2020, I personally advised you by phone through counsel that you should postpone your event, and as of today's date, it is my understanding that you intend to violate the orders of the Governor and the Health Directive by holding your event on May 15."

TempleLive has also announced a separate event with the Fort Smith performer, Travis McCready, on Saturday at an outdoor distillery venue in Missouri,which has eased its restrictions on public gatherings, provided people maintain social distance.

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.