White Oak Music Hall’s outdoor stage, a source of contention between the venue and its neighbors since it opened in April, is again in the headlines after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner denied the owners’ plan to continue operating the stage indefinitely via temporary permit during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the mayor rejected the owners’ plan to dismantle and then rebuild its stage out of hand, saying, “It is important that they be good neighbors.” Several City Council members were also critical, both of the developers’ plan and of White Oak itself.
“It continues to baffle me that in a city that is profoundly reasonable with business opportunities, it puzzles me why business operators choose particular operations,” Councilman Mike Laster said. “Anyone with half a wit of common sense would know this would cause a problem.”
However, White Oak’s owners insist they are abiding with the city’s regulations, and will continue to do so.
“White Oak Music Hall is working with the city to make sure all shows at its lawn venue comply with all city permitting requirements,” Johnny So, the venue’s managing partner, told the Houston Press. “This includes any and all city oversight related to the stage. Shows on the lawn will continue as scheduled, unless indicated otherwise.”
Dubbed The Lawn at White Oak, the outdoor stage has been beset by noise complaints from residents of the near northside since it opened, particularly at a Flaming Lips show over Memorial Day Weekend. According to the venue’s website, five concerts are currently scheduled on the Lawn after the temporary permit is set to expire on October 5: Alessia Cara (October 22); The Head and the Heart (October 27); Rebelution (October 28); Pet Shop Boys (November 2); and Morrissey (November 19).
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At issue during Wednesday’s council meeting were the comments that one of White Oak's developers, Will Garwood, made in a previous Chronicle article on Tuesday, which noted that the venue had scheduled and is promoting several shows after the permit’s expiration date.
"The stage will come down and it will come back up," Garwood said. "They have the latitude to say that it's safe or not. They can't say you can't take it down and put it back up. We have every right to have a concert on the stage.”
"No one is going to tear down a stage and come back and get a temporary permit," Turner said in the meeting, according to the Chronicle. "That's not happening. They need to work on a permanent permit, and I expect them to take the steps to do that.”
Citing city records, the Chronicle reported Wednesday that White Oak’s application for a permanent-stage permit had been rejected five times, but that developers had applied for another one last week. A later version of the article noted that Turner said during the meeting that police had been called to the venue three times during the last concert on The Lawn — Explosions In the Sky on August 19, part of White Oak’s official grand-opening weekend — and found the venue to be in compliance with Houston’s existing noise ordinance.