In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, people all around the world have been advised by health officials to avoid crowds of people. Here in Houston, bars and clubs were ordered to close for 15 days beginning on March 17, and Governor Greg Abbot issued an executive order temporarily closing schools and gyms later that week.
While some of us are afforded the opportunity to work from home, many Houstonians are employed
in industries that rely on foot traffic and in-person interaction. Music venues, for example, depend on ticket sales, bar sales and live entertainment, all of which have been upended by the threat of COVID-19.
But rather than sit back and accept the situation, at least one local music venue decided to create its own stimulus package through a bit of creative thinking. White Oak Music Hall on Friday started a GoFundMe page intended to raise $50,000 for its employees who have found themselves underemployed amid these extenuating and unprecedented circumstances.
“There is no cutoff date with GoFundMe, but since everything is changing so rapidly, we are trying to cast the message far and wide as fast as we can,” marketing director Mike Mauer said of the campaign. “There are about 75 people that we hope to help with this fund currently.”
As a result of the pandemic and subsequent orders not to host large crowds, WOMH has been forced to call off nearly three dozen shows, including Orville Peck, MGMT and Pussy Riot. All existing tickets will be honored at the rescheduled dates, according the venue’s web site.
“Since artists are postponing their entire tours, our schedule changes extend well into April and even some in May,” Mauer said. “While our priority is fast and transparent communication with our guests on schedule changes, behind the scenes our booking team is moving mountains to work with artists on rescheduled dates. The good news is that we've got a lot of the shows already rescheduled.”
In the meantime, the nearly 100 people employed by WOMH have bills to pay, so Mauer and his team decided to start a fundraising page for employees, which is already more than halfway to its goal at the time of this writing.
“We are forever grateful to every single person who donates but would be absolutely blown away if it surpasses $50,000,” Mauer said. “The venue is not keeping any of the proceeds, so the more we can raise, the more it directly helps our staff.”
Over the weekend, WOMH also teamed up with Cosmo Flamingo to offer free takeout/drive-through for members of the community affected by the outbreak.
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“This situation affects everyone, so we're trying to do our part in helping both our staff and the community out as best we can,” Mauer said. “We're also asking local businesses to create Spotify playlists for our fans to listen to while they're at home, which we'll soon start spotlighting across our social pages. Another idea we're exploring is how to organize a blood drive safely and responsibly, since there's a severe shortage right now. We're open to any ideas, so are always thinking about where our efforts can best make a difference.”
In an attempt to spur interest in the fundraiser, WOMH is offering a bevy of incentives to would-be donors, including architectural tours of the venue, early access to a private soundcheck for upcoming shows and private training sessions with audio engineers and lighting designers.
“Since we have no shows right now, we're trying to keep everyone focused and working on supporting the community,” Mauer says. “Additionally, we've hustled really hard to create some once-in-a-lifetime perks on the WOMH staff GoFundMe page. We're really hopeful that unique experiences like having your name included on custom artwork in the venue, private sound and lighting design lessons, behind-the-scene tours, et cetera will really help incentivize people to support our amazing staff that's been affected by this.”