Indoor venues such as theaters, arenas, stadiums, and auction houses that are designed for large groups may reopen on May 18 on a limited basis, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at his daily COVID-19 press conference yesterday.

The Arkansas Department of Health issued a directive today that allows the venues to open for audiences of fewer than 50 and that 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,” Governor Hutchinson said today. “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.”

This directive covers indoor venues for commercial, community, or civic events and activities where an audience, spectators, or a gathering of people are present, such as concerts, plays, movies, lectures, presentations, conferences, conventions, sporting events, races, fundraisers, trade shows, and festivals.

Venues include auditoriums, lecture halls, movie theatres, other theatres, museums, arenas, sports venues, race tracks, stadiums, gymnasiums, auction houses, amusement centers, barns, exhibit halls, conventions centers, and funeral homes. The list of venues also includes recreational facilities such as bowling alleys and trampoline parks.

Gatherings subject to this directive also include, without limitation, community, civic, public, leisure, commercial, or sporting events.

This directive is not intended for gatherings of people in unconfined outdoor spaces, such as parks or athletic fields, where physical distancing of at least six feet can be easily achieved. Those may open today, May 4.

Nor is this directive intended for houses of worship, which are addressed under separate guidance.

The ADH issued this directive today in regard to reopening large venues:

  • The performers/players/contestants must be separated from the audience by at least 12 feet and must be limited to 50 or fewer.
  • The audience is limited to 50 or fewer people.
  • Lines or queues for entrance, exit, making purchases, or for other reasons must be marked or monitored to maintain six feet between people.
  • Seating must be arranged to maintain six feet between members of the audience.
  • Family groups may sit together but maintain six feet between groups.
  • Every other row of seating should be unoccupied.
  • Face coverings are required except for children younger than 10.
  • Performers/players/contestants may be without a face covering if they are 12 feet from each other.
  • Signs must be posted at all entrances advising members of the public not to enter if:
    -  They have fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or a recent loss of taste or smell.
    -  They have had known exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Signs must be posted at all entrances advising members of the public that they may wish to refrain from entering if:
    -  They are 65 years of age or older.
    -  They have underlying health conditions including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, severe obesity, asthma, or weakened immunity.
  • Hand-sanitizer stations must be available at all entrances and exits.
  • Refreshments may be served. However, self-service operations, including, but not limited to, salad bars, buffets, and condiment bars shall not be allowed.
  • The facility, including seating, shall be cleaned and disinfected before and after each use.
  • Frequently touched surfaces shall be cleaned periodically during the course of the event.

Find the Arkansas Department of Health directive for large indoor venues HERE.

The directive for large outdoor venues from the Arkansas Department of Health can be found HERE.


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