Fitz Makeover

Big changes for iconic Houston concert venue — beer garden, more parking and better bathrooms!

Changes at iconic Houston concert venue: Better bathrooms, bigger acts

Fitzgerald's Houston place exterior
A big renovation is planned for the iconic club Fitzgerald's. onetakewriting.com
Lauren Oakes Fitzgerald's Aug 2015
Lauren Oakes, who has worked at Fitzgerald's as a sound engineer since 2004, will take over operations of the venue. Photo by Dutch Small
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The Fitzgerald's signs brags that it has been featuring live music since 1977. Photo by Jimmy Diaz
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The scene at Fitzgerald's Courtesy of Kelli Photos
Solange, Fitzgerald's
Solange is among the performers who have graced the stage at Fitzgerald's. Photo by Cory Simmons@MisterSimmons/Instagram
Fitzgerald's Aug 2015
Fitzgerald's will undergo much-needed renovations under new ownership. Photo by Dutch Small
Fitzgerald's Houston place exterior
Lauren Oakes Fitzgerald's Aug 2015
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Solange, Fitzgerald's
Fitzgerald's Aug 2015

Following last week's announcement that promotion company Pegstar will no longer host shows at Fitzgerald's — believed to be the city's oldest music venue — many Houstonians feared the worst: The venue was shutting down.

While Pegstar's final show at the beloved venue will in fact take place on August 29, current Fitzgerald's sound engineer Lauren Oakes — who has worked there since 2004 — will take over and supervise major renovations of the building.

So what exactly is changing?

According to Fitzgerald's spokesperson Dutch Small, the building, which was constructed in 1918 and owned by Sara Fitzgerald since the early '70s, will be completely gutted and renovated as soon as the current tenant vacates.

 "Fitzgerald's is not going to become an unrecognizably different place," Small adds. "It will still be Fitzgerald's, it just will no longer be grimy and gritty."

"We're taking out all the 100-year-old wiring and rewiring the whole building," Small says. "We're completely renovating all of the bathrooms and taking all of the rotten wood off of the exterior and replacing it. The second story balcony will be rebuilt and will wrap around the building.

"We're going to have a beer garden. We're tearing down several of the houses that are adjacent and turning it into a parking, as well as completely resurfacing the entire parking lot. Most importantly to music fans, we're going to have a significant upgrade of the PA system so the sound and the acoustics — the sonic experience — will be vastly superior."

Other improvements include a better air-conditioning system, an industrial elevator to assist bands with load-in — bands currently have to carry their equipment up a flight of exterior stairs — and a better backstage area to accommodate the artists.

"Fitzgerald's is not going to become an unrecognizably different place," Small adds. "It will still be Fitzgerald's, it just will no longer be grimy and gritty."

Concert celebration

According to Small, a huge celebratory concert — the artists have yet to be announced — will take place when the venue reopens, currently set for October 3.

"We've got target dates, but there are realities that no one can control surrounding them," he says. "The reality is that we're not in control of the city, we're not in control of the permitting process, we're not in control of what we find within those rotten walls, we're not in control of a whole lot of things that are going to be part and parcel of this restoration process and it could be that we miss our deadline, but I believe that because everyone loves the venue so much, they would rather see a delay in opening than see it done badly or incompletely."

 "It's Houston's live music church," Oakes says. "We're just making it what it always should have been." 

With Austin-based concert promotion group Transmission — known for Fun Fun Fun Fest and more than 700 events around Austin in 2014 alone — will take over booking shows for Fitzgerald's following the venue's reopening. As for the types of shows that the venue will host, you can expect changes, but nothing earth-shattering, according to Small.

"We know that Fitzgerald's is a sacred place in the city of Houston," Small says. "We have all grown up there, and not just us, but our audience. It's not going to suddenly become a metal club, it's not going to suddenly become a hip-hop club, it's not going to suddenly become an EDM club. It's going to be Fitzgerald's.

"We will, as a result of our improved facilities, be able to accommodate bigger acts. That's the most noticeable change in the programming is that the names will be somewhat bigger, but also, because we are all personally involved and have great relationships with local artists, the venue will still remain fully engaged in developing local talent."

As someone who has frequented the venue since the age of 15, I'm personally excited for all of the changes. Who hasn't had a terrible experience in Fitzgerald's bathrooms or worried that their tire might blow out in their miniscule parking lot?

Yes, things will be different, but Oakes — who said she's been paying attention to what needs to be fixed at the venue for more than a decade — assures that these changes are all for the best.

"It's Houston's live music church," Oakes says. "We're just making it what it always should have been."