Houston Shuts Down Illegal Stage Construction at White Oak Music Hall

A temporary White Oak stage that has since been torn down.
A temporary White Oak stage that has since been torn down.
Jackson Gorman

In the latest chapter of the continuing drama over the outdoor stage at White Oak Music Hall, Houston's Public Works Department this week issued a notice of violation to the venue after inspectors discovered crews building an outdoor stage without a permit, the city said.

“It looks like they had begun some unpermitted construction on the site,” said Gary Norman, a public works spokesman. 

Norman said the city on Tuesday issued White Oak what is known as a “red tag,” ordering the venue to cease work on the stage after receiving a tip from the public. If White Oak defies the notice, Norman said, the venue may be on the hook for fines.

Hours before the citation, real estate agent Jeff Trevino, who said he lives near White Oak Music Hall, expressed his exasperation with the venue to City Council. He distributed copies of photographs he said depicted unpermitted construction on the site. 

"Those pictures were taken this morning," Trevino said. "They were putting up the stage yesterday, and they're putting up the stage right now."

Trevino said tractors were moving dirt on the site and crews were installing a stage. Mayor Sylvester Turner told Trevino the city would investigate.

The sprawling Near Northside music complex has tussled with neighbors and city planners for months over a permanent outdoor stage on the site. Mayor Turner said in September that White Oak must get a permanent stage permit (instead of renewing temporary permits) to keep holding outdoor shows beyond October 5, when the final temporary permit was set to expire.

That date came and went as White Oak's principals and city planners continued to wrangle over plans for a new stage. Norman said public works is still evaluating revised plans for a permanent stage but was unable to estimate when a permit may be issued.

"We're in the middle of the review process," Norman said. 

White Oak's Will Garwood, Will Thomas and Johnny So did not respond to requests for comment.

Johnny So did tell the Houston Press last month that the venue was abiding by all of the city's rules, and said outdoor shows would go on as scheduled.

But that appears no longer to be the case. Canadian R&B singer Alessia Cara was on the bill for an outdoor show on October 22, but that is now listed as an inside event on the venue's website. The site lists The Head And The Heart for an outdoor show on October 27, one of five outdoor gigs booked before the end of the year.


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