Bayou City

Judge Grants Injunction Against White Oak Music Hall, With a Catch

This stage, shown hosting Explosions In the Sky during White Oak Music Hall's Grand Opening Weekend last September, is not the one that will host the Pixies and Randy Rogers Band this spring.
This stage, shown hosting Explosions In the Sky during White Oak Music Hall's Grand Opening Weekend last September, is not the one that will host the Pixies and Randy Rogers Band this spring. Marco Torres
A Harris County judge has granted a temporary injunction sought by the plaintiffs who filed suit last month against White Oak Music Hall, claiming outdoor concerts from the venue and adjoining Raven Tower were adversely affecting their quality of life. The venue is now restricted to hosting no more than two concerts on its outdoor Lawn until the case comes to trial.

However, shows at Raven Tower’s Pavilion and Patio stages are permitted to continue, so long as they remain within the acceptable limits set out by the court. Judge Kristen B. Hawkins ordered the case set for trial on May 15; until this week, when influential alt-rockers the Pixies were announced for April 30, the next scheduled concert on the Lawn had been the popular Texas country group the Randy Rogers Band on May 20.

According to the ruling, filed at 5 p.m. Wednesday, “Plaintiffs have presented some evidence that Defendants’ outdoor music concerts at the Lawn at White Oak and amplified outdoor events on the Patio, the Lawn, and the Pavilion have and may substantially interfere with Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities if Defendants are allowed to host such shows without limitation.”

The plaintiffs also showed that they would suffer “imminent and irreparable harm” if outdoor shows at White Oak and Raven Tower continued unchecked between now and the trial, Judge Hawkins continued, but the venue also made its case that going completely dark between now and the trial would cause them “irreparable harm.”

The injunction, effective immediately, prohibits more than two outdoor events using amplified sound, including live music; karaoke; and exercise classes, from taking place on the Lawn before the trial. All outdoor events must end by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends, it added.

Furthermore, the order prohibited White Oak and Raven Tower's outdoor stages from producing sounds that exceed 75 dB and 125 Hz. Decibels is a unit of volume, and 75 dB is the maximum limit of the city’s sound ordinance, as measured from the property line of any adjacent property. Hertz measure frequency; in so many words, a reading beyond 125 hZ means too much bass.

White Oak must also hire an engineer to monitor sound at the perimeters of the property and report the findings to both the court and the plaintiff’s attorneys on a weekly basis, the ruling said.

The official name of the case, filed in the 11th District Court of Harris County, is Theresa Cavin et al. vs. White Oak Events, LLC.

“This is a victory for the families in three Houston neighborhoods, and it should be a wake-up call for the City of Houston to stand with families who simply want silent nights,” said Cris Feldman, the lead plaintiff’s attorney, according to KPRC.

Through the PR firm On the Mark Communications, White Oak Music Hall released the following statement:

We have not had time to thoroughly review the judge's order, but it does not affect our announced concerts. As such, the Pixies and Randy Rogers shows outside will continue as planned, as will all of our indoor shows and events at Raven Tower.  However, any injunction against White Oak Music Hall is a blow to anyone who supports live music in Houston or the revitalization of the Northside neighborhood.  The handful of residents opposed to 9 hours of live music a month may be reaping the benefits, but there are tens of thousands of other Houstonians — both near and far from the venue — who ultimately lose out.  The good news is that the case is set for trial on May 15, and we expect this case to be resolved quickly.

A news conference on the case has been scheduled by the plaintiffs for 11 a.m. Thursday, KPRC added.
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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray