Toned Down But Not Gone, White Oak Music Hall Outdoor Stages Will Live On

A compromise has been reached for White Oak and its near Northside neighbors.
A compromise has been reached for White Oak and its near Northside neighbors. Photo by Marco Torres
When White Oak Music Hall opened in August 2016 to the delight of local music fans, all sorts of optimistic statements were made by its business partners that their near Northside residential neighbors would come to love their big, bold, outdoor venue and the jobs it offered the locals.

Ah, not so much.

Instead what has followed has been a steady stream of complaints about the noise, several court appearances complete with injunctions and a city council and administration that clearly just wished the whole thing would go away.

Tuesday a settlement was announced at a press conference. White Oak will be able to put on outdoor shows but they are limited in the number per year (40) and how many can take place on a school night (20). White Oak has to monitor its own noise levels and keep them under a certain level. It is paying for the monitoring equipment.

 Cris Feldman, the plaintiff's attorney went out of his way repeatedly to criticize the city's role in all this first for allowing the stages to be built in the middle of three neighborhoods and then for what he said was a failure to enforce its own sound ordinances. Oh and in the bargain, Feldman said, White Oak used taxpayer money to create this problem. "The city of Houston showed no leadership whatsoever."

The city needs to rewrite its sound ordinances, Feldman said, calling them unenforceable and weak. Under terms of this agreement, if White Oak violates the settlement it can be subject to a fine of between $5,000 and $15,000.

White Oak will also have to shut off its outdoor concerts on the nights before State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing at 9:30 as opposed to the usual 10 p.m. closing time.

Johnny So, Managing Partner of White Oak Music Hall, released this statement:

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter with the plaintiffs. We think it is the quintessential definition of a compromise, with both groups agreeing on a middle-ground that addresses the plaintiffs’ concerns regarding outdoor event frequency, outdoor event volume, and even such things as school testing schedules. And simultaneously it balances our need to continue to offer a first-rate concert experience to our guests. We appreciate the plaintiffs’ willingness to work with us, and look forward to our slate of Lawn concerts this year.”
Feldman, flanked by the neighbors of White Oak, said "We are cautiously optimistic," about what lies ahead.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing