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Coronavirus in Texas

Vanilla Ice cancels Fourth of July weekend concert near Austin as coronavirus cases surge

Plans for the concert drew outrage due to public health warnings that large gatherings can accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. But as of Wednesday night, only 84 tickets had been sold.

Vanilla Ice performs at Las Vegas on June, 22 2019.

Rapper Vanilla Ice has canceled an in-person concert at an Austin-area venue after news of the show sparked concerns about social distancing.

"He canceled with us around 11:45 [a.m.]," Barret Brannam, the owner of Emerald Point Bar & Grill on Lake Travis told The Texas Tribune on Thursday. "Bad information being circulated caused too much drama."

On Wednesday night, Brannam said the performance was still scheduled for Friday, even as the number coronavirus cases continue to surge across the state. At the time, Brannam said only 84 tickets had been sold and that, while reports had suggested that the number of fans at Friday's show would be roughly 2,500, the maximum occupancy for the event had been set to 450 people. On Thursday, Vanilla Ice tweeted that, while he took the virus seriously, "we can't live in a bubble" — and said the venue had "plenty of room for distancing." A few hours later, the rapper reversed course, tweeting that the performance would be moved to a later date due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Emerald Point is officially categorized as a restaurant because at least 51% of its sales are food, as the Austin Chronicle first reported. That would mean the venue can operate at 50% capacity under Gov. Greg Abbott's latest executive order aiming to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Under that order, bars were forced to close their doors, but restaurants can still operate at half their capacity. Local officials have the power under his order to cancel public outdoor events with more than 100 people.

Brannam also said Thursday that at least one other performance set to happen over the weekend — Color me Badd — had been canceled. National artists would not be playing at the venue, he said, adding that local artists would still be allowed to perform.

"We're not trying to buck the system — we're going within the guidelines we've been given," Brannam said Wednesday. "Music is part of Emerald Point — and it will always be part of us going forward."

Before Friday's show with Vanilla Ice was canceled, Brannam had stressed the safety precautions the venue has been taking for months and plans to implement, such as taking attendees' temperatures at the entrance and requesting that they practice social distancing and wear masks. Brannam said his venue was not requiring people to wear masks because "I'm not their mom and dad, [and] I can't make them do it."

"We reduced the capacity to 450 people because that's what we thought we could space with tables," he said, stressing that the venue has followed Abbott's guidelines since the pandemic hit the state. "It's really not as gross as people are making it out to be."

On Wednesday, state health officials reported the highest number of coronavirus cases yet with 8,000 new cases. That figure more than doubled what the state's case count was roughly two weeks ago.

Brannam said 20 employees at the venue who were tested last week for the virus had negative results. He said people "can live life in a way that protects yourself" and that while the venue is enforcing social distancing measures "the best we can ... at the end of the day, there's still in this country something called personal responsibility."

"[Vanilla Ice] has already been paid," he said. "If I cancel the show ... I'm just flushing money down the toilet. ... If only a couple hundred people come out, at least those people got to see a cool show."

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