Texas and its capital city have been hot spots in a summer resurgence of the coronavirus. And yet, the Iceman cometh.
Vanilla Ice, the 1990s rapper with the hit single “Ice Ice Baby,” is scheduled to play an outdoor concert at a lakeside restaurant just outside Austin on Friday night, despite rapidly rising numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations in the city and across the state.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week shut down bars and clubs in an effort to halt what he called a “massive spread” of the coronavirus. But the Emerald Point Bar & Grill is still open and hosting live music because it is a restaurant and performances can take place outside.
The Vanilla Ice show drew widespread attention — and criticism — when the rapper posted about it on social media Wednesday.
“I take the coronavirus serious. But we can’t live in a bubble,” the rapper tweeted Thursday. “I think at this point we all understand the severity of it. (P)ractice social distancing and wear a mask. This is an outside venue, Fourth of July on the lake with fireworks. Plenty of room for distancing.”
Restaurant owner Barrett Brannam said he’s following the governor’s orders that limit restaurants to 50% dining capacity. By that measure, Brannam could have sold up to 2,500 tickets but he limited sales to 450 tickets.
Brannam said he’ll be lucky to get that many. He sold only 84 tickets before sales were suspended by his online ticket broker, meaning any further sales will come from walk-in customers.
Brannam said he hasn’t come under any pressure to cancel the show from state or local governments but he has been swamped with calls of complaints. He said he won’t cancel the show because he’s already spent about $35,000 to Vanilla Ice — real name Robert Van Winkle — as well as production arrangements.
The performer played the same venue last year in front of 1,800 people and is booked for the holiday weekend for the next two years, Brannam said. Friday’s concert was booked in 2019, he said.
“I’m going to lose a bunch of money on this show. We can at least have a good concert,” Brannam said. “I didn’t know about COVID when I booked this show. Nobody did.”
Brannam said the rapper has committed to asking fans to wear masks and follow proper social distancing guidelines. The venue will check patrons’ temperatures at the entrance and will give a mask to anyone who needs one, he said.
The restaurant has been hosting live music performances since it reopened in May. Brannam said no one complained until it was a Vanilla Ice concert. There are shows scheduled for Saturday and Sunday as well.
Brannam said he postponed upcoming concerts by Cooli and Tone Loc next weekend because he wouldn’t lose money.
“Vanilla Ice, he’s poised for people to poke fun at. Nobody was saying anything until he made his post. That’s when everything went crazy,” Brannam said. “I’m the most hated person on the planet right now over a Vanilla Ice show.”
More must-read entertainment coverage from Fortune:
- How movie theaters can make a comeback after the coronavirus pandemic
- Chris Hemsworth calls Extraction the “most exhausting” shoot of his career
- True History of the Kelly Gang‘s director, stars on their hypnotic outlaw saga
- Meet the vocal coach keeping busy while opera stages are all dark
- When jazz musicians aren’t live-streaming owing to coronavirus, they’re scrambling to rebook lost gigs
Subscribe to Outbreak, a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on global business, delivered free to your inbox.