ROANOKE, Va. – Famous rocker Ted Nugent performed in Roanoke on Tuesday night despite protests in the weeks leading up to the show. Nugent is a gun rights supporter and encourages open carry, but his fans were told at the last minute that they were not allowed to bring their guns inside the Berglund Performing Arts Theater.
It was Ted Nugent's management that made the decision to not allow guns into the show. The Berglund Center said because it is city owned, it can't keep guns out unless the performers are the ones who request it, and that it was actually in Nugent's contract all along, but was in a sub-contract between Nugent and his promoter that wasn't shared with Berglund Center management until the last minute.
"It happened about five minutes before we opened doors, we had a security meeting before we opened doors and the subject came up and we said, 'Yes people will be bringing firearms,'" Berglund Center General Manager Robyn Schon said. And Nugent's people said, "Uh, no, our agreement says no.'"
A long line had gathered outside the doors waiting to get in when security came out and made the announcement that there had been a change in plans. Guns would not be allowed in, pat downs would be performed, and anyone with a gun would be asked to take it to their car.
"Given the things that have happened in nightclubs like the Pulse and what happened in Manchester, (Nugent's) security people are taking extra precautions," Schon said. "They are not novices; they are very seasoned people."
The announcement came as a change to prior rules where the venue discouraged guns, but couldn't ban people from bringing them on property. Most standing in line didn't even realize guns were at one point allowed in based on our off-the-cuff conversations with people. Two fans did have their guns turned away from the show, according to Schon, and Roanoke police had already brought in an increased presence in case something escalated.
"There's always that concern when other people are armed; however, if they're carrying legally, then we expect them to behave and act accordingly," Roanoke Police Lt. Jason Holt said, specifically citing events such as the Charlottesville riots where people did the opposite.
Roanoke police would not say if there had been any specific or credible threats to the event, only that there had been lots of attention leading up to it and they wanted to be prepared. They said it's normal to have a police presence at these type of events, but the increased presence was the department's doing.
Nugent's management didn't approve any media passes and did not allow cameras inside. We purchased a ticket, however, to see the show. Just over a thousand people turned out for the show, which is about half the theater's capacity. Some people specifically turned out after local gun violence prevention advocate Andy Parker called for a boycott of the show and of the Berglund Center because of the booking.
"The gentleman protesting the fact that Ted Nugent was here, I'm a Ted Nugent fan and I thought, you know what? I'm going to come out and see Ted Nugent," Wendell Johnson said. "So I bought two tickets."
Those upset with the no gun rule wouldn't go on camera with us, but had lots to say off camera. But the majority were just fine with seeing Nugent, who promotes open carry and gun rights, without their weapons, despite being pro-gun themselves.
"I don't have a problem with that at all. I think you can look around and see this is an orderly crowd and I didn't anticipate anything else," Nugent fan Tom Miller said.
"I think it's probably pretty safe because some people get in there and get pretty crazy, and I came to see the show. I don't want to get shot," Donna Belcher added.
10 News got to see about 20 minutes of Nugent's show before leaving due to time constraints. There was lots of red, white and blue and Nugent performed in front of a large American flag. Nugent walked on stage right after the speakers blasted "We're an American Band" by Grand Funk Railroad - the band that also had a song, "Don't Let Em Take Your Gun."
Wednesday morning, Schon told 10 News, "we stand by what we said Tuesday night and that is the end of our Ted Nugent story."
We've asked to see the contract; however, it cannot be acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request and it does not contain the language regarding the gun decision.