Mask on or mask off? That is the question.
Like many in the hospitality and entertainment industry, local live music venues are scrambling to decide what actions to take in the wake of Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement last week rescinding the state-wide mask mandates and opening all businesses at full capacity.
Houston venues still hosting shows instituted strict health guidelines months ago, which included limited capacity, mask requirements, staggered entry times, and enforced social distancing with tables or cordoned off sections. For now, it looks like those most of those measures will remain in place.
White Oak Music Hall, one of the largest venues to host shows during the pandemic, did so by implementing a grid system wherein small groups share a section of the outdoor lawn area. Patrons are required to wear masks should they step out of their section and concessions were ordered online. The venue effectively shut the indoor stage area and has no immediate plans to re-open it.
White Oak fans can also watch for the Texas Smoke Break Fest Comedy Show with Ali Siddiq, Byrson Brown, and more on Wednesday, March 17. The Texas Smoke Break Fest with Larry June, Le$f, Slim Thug, DevinTheDude, and goes down on Saturday, March 20. Meanwhile, the Read Southall Band performs on Saturday, April 17 with all current safety measures in place.
"We’re thrilled to see COVID rates declining and steps taken to open Texas back up,” Johnny So, managing partner of White Oak Music Hall said in a statement. “We’re still evaluating what that means for us and how that might affect our concerts. We're hopeful that it will allow us to book more shows and welcome more fans, but we need to ensure that those shows can be done safely."
Other venue owners echoed the same sentiment, while not committing to any quick changes to safety measures.
“We have great hope that our venues will return to normal operations very soon,” Edwin Cabaniss with the Heights Theater tells CultureMap. “If we continue to see progress, we anticipate making incremental changes to our protocols on our way to full reopening. We are just thankful to be in a position to safely-reopen after an extraordinarily difficult year - many of our peers were not that fortunate.”
Out of those that responded to requests from CultureMap, the majority of local spots said they elected to keep current safety guidelines in place. Others that shuttered completely will stay closed for the time being.
While some national artists are still touring, namely Staind lead singer Aaron Lewis performing on March 11 and South African punk rap act Die Antwoord booked for May 29 at Revention Music Center, it appears it will be some time before venues get close to hosting full sized crowds.
The following is a list of music venues that responded to requests about the health and safety restrictions in place. All of those hosting shows have hand sanitization stations throughout the venue.
Venues currently open:
Axelrad: Limited capacity; masks required inside and while ordering.
Dosey Doe: Patrons encouraged to wear masks.
Heights Theater: Mandatory social distancing; face mask required except while eating and drinking.
House of Blues: Face coverings mandatory and must be worn at all times except while eating and drinking; guest belongings must be kept in a clear bag or small clutch bag; mandatory social distancing; staggered arrival times.
Main Street Crossing: Face coverings mandatory and must be worn at all times except while eating and drinking; mandatory social distancing; contactless payment.
McGonigel’s Muck Duck: Mask requirements except while eating and drinking; capacity limits
Revention Music Center: Face coverings mandatory and must be worn at all times except while eating and drinking; guest belongings must be kept in a clear bag or small clutch bag; mandatory social distancing; staggered arrival times.
Rudyards: Mask requirements except while eating and drinking; capacity limitations.
Warehouse Live: Limited seating; masked encouraged when not seated; social distancing encouraged.
White Oak Music Hall: Face coverings mandatory and must be worn at all times except while eating and drinking; limited capacity; mandatory social distancing; drinks must be ordered through cocktail server.
Venues closed or currently not booking acts:
Satellite Houston: No shows booked at this time.
Smart Financial Center: No shows until May 15.
The Secret Group: Closed through the month of March and likely through April.
The Continental Club: Remains closed at this time.