One of Houston's major economic contributors is a diverse and growing nightlife scene. The city's large entertainment community offers all kinds of performances everywhere from the Theater District to the Heights. Yet it's an industry that's under threat with the passage of a restrictive new sound regulation ordinance for Houston's concert venues and bars.
Enter the Greater Houston Entertainment Coalition Political Action Committee (GHEC PAC), formed in January.
"The GHEC is comprised of Houston's entertainment community, including industry members of local bars, clubs, live music venues, sound professionals, musicians, artists, and service staff," board member Joshua Sanders told CultureMap. "Members of the industry decided to form a Special Action Committee in order to actively get the community involved and to spread awareness of this issue."
Last October, the City Council approved changes to noise ordinances that stem from annual noise complaints and millions spent on investigations, passing Chapter 30 of the Code of Ordinances. Measuring sound by determining levels of bass notes, the rule mainly targets to bars, clubs, and live music venues, and anyone who violates this ordinance is subject to a $1,000 fee or arrest.
Board member and co-owner of live music venue Fitzgerald's Omar Afra spoke about the ordinance before City Council on Feb. 14.
"We want to comply and communicate with the HPD and ARA as much as possible to clear any ambiguity concerning the ordinance," said Afra, who added that with more cooperation between council members and the entertainment community, problems could be resolved without legal action. Afra also stated that "people are now afraid to go into work, because they fear they may be arrested just for doing their job."
The GHEC and its professionals aim to provide insight to resolve problems and balance neighborhood complaints with the support for small businesses. The PAC is teaming up with Red Bull and will throw various benefit events once a month around town. Supporters can also meet Monday nights at Avant Garden to discuss strategies and throw out ideas.
So far the wheels are in motion. "There has been good traction from City Hall, the Mayor's office, and HPD ... they've been very receptive," says Sanders. "We just want to flesh out any issues of the ordinance by working with the HPD on more consistent enforcement standards and to expand this model to the rest of the city."
"I've been a roadie in the past and performed," says Mayor Pro-Tem Edward Gonzalez. "Sound meters are something that venues could invest in even though they're expensive."
The PAC have also formed a trade association that will address and help resolve any future issues affecting the local entertainment industry. Supporters can make a contribution to the PAC, volunteer time to support the coalition, contact City Council members or just stay engaged on Facebook and Twitter.