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Photo courtesy of ABC13

A Montrose staple for nearly 60 years was significantly damaged in a fire overnight. Houston Fire Department responded to a fire at Griff's Irish Pub on Roseland Street just before 4 am Friday, January 13.

When Houston firefighters arrived at the scene, they were faced with heavy flames and smoke on the front of the building.

Fire officials said they had a difficult time putting out the flames due to strong winds. Firefighters also had trouble getting inside the building due to security.

"Once in place, they made a valiant effort to knock the fire down from the interior, but there was just too much fire," Clyde Gordon with HFD said. "So we had to go defensive for a few minutes, knock it down from the exterior, and now they are back interior."

Gordon said it appeared the fire started in the front of the building, closest to the street. HFD said the fire is now under control. The building was unoccupied at the time and no one was hurt.

In a Facebook post on Friday morning, Griff's said it will be closed until further notice, but plans to rebuild.

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Continue reading this story, with accompanying video, on our news partner ABC13.

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Bustling Medical Center Starbucks joins Upper Kirby outpost as second to unionize

another unionized starbucks

Another Houston-area Starbucks plans to join the growing movement of unionized coffee shops. Workers at the 6400 Fannin St. location announced their intentions via a letter distributed by Starbucks Workers United.

In the letter, which is signed by nine employees “and those who wish to remain anonymous,” they note that their decision to organize is based on a high rate of employee turnover at the store, which the authors attribute to labor cuts, insufficient wage increases, and other “unaddressed partner concerns.”

“We understand these are not issues unique to our store or our store’s management, but rather problems that exist on a company level and ones that the lowest-wage workers of this company are looking to address,” they add.

In addition, the authors state that Starbucks presented its baristas as “essential workers” during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving them the same title as the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals working in the office tower above them. They write that they maintained the highest “Customer Connection” store in their district throughout this period.

In September, workers at the Starbucks at Shepherd Drive and Harold Street became the first in Houston to form a union. They voted 11-3 in favor of the effort.

At the time, Starbucks issued a statement that acknowledged its employees’ rights to unionize but stated “we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

If 30 percent of the location’s employees sign cards or petitions stating they wish to form a union, an election will be held. If a majority of employees vote for the union, they the location will be unionized. To date, more than 250 Starbucks across the country have unionized, according to Starbucks Workers United.

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Frontier Airlines' 'wild' new unlimited pass clears cheap travel for Houstonians this summer

Wherever, whenever

Cheap flights are at Houstonians’ fingertips as Frontier Airlines offers its all-you-can-fly summer and annual passes. The “Go Wild” passes really do offer unlimited flights to unbounded destinations — both international and domestic — starting May 2.

Both passes are currently deeply discounted with fights out of Austin. The summer pass, which runs from May 2 to September 30, is available for $399 (compared with $999), and the year-round pass starting on the same day is going for $1,299 (formerly $1,999).

This deal is best for people who travel light and plan fast. Booking options allow domestic flights to be purchased one day in advance, while international gives a little more leeway, with 10 days, and neither include luggage allowances. Still, bags can be purchased as usual, and since the passes cost about as much as an average or slightly higher flight in their respective farthest reaches, it would only take a few uses to practically pay for itself.

Another consideration is blackout dates; not an insignificant number. There is at least one every month, with other, more restrictive months like March, 2024, blacked out on about a third of dates. The pass also auto-renews, so buyers will need to pay attention or be prepared to extend their travel marathon.

Flights travel direct from Austin to Denver or Las Vegas and back; everything else will take a connection. Taht means Houstonians can consider driving to Auston or Dallas — the latter which provides 18 more direct route options to locales including New York City, San Diego, Ontario, and Cancun.

This straightforward deal prioritizes flexible travelers, but offers extensive usefulness to someone willing to work around common travel dates and spend a few extra dollars to pack comfortably. More information about the “Go Wild” passes is available at flyfrontier.com.

New 'artport' programs by Houston airports surprisingly surpass iconic global venues for number of daily viewers

now boarding for eye-catching art

Truthfully, the average U.S. traveler probably doesn’t pay too much attention to the décor at the airport while they’re sprinting through to catch a plane or whizzing out to head home.

Even those with more time on their hands due to layovers or — ugh — cancelled flights might only have shopping and eating on their minds.

But thanks to several groundbreaking new programs and an enviable permanent collection, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport are fast becoming “artports.” Essentially, they’re bringing some visual interest and razzle-dazzle to millions of travelers’ experience in H-town.

“Art in the airport is a globally growing trend, and arguably the airport is becoming the new museum,” Alton DuLaney, curator of public art for Houston Airports, tells CultureMap. “You’ve got a captive audience with time to spend and enjoy. We want to make that experience in our airport as pleasant as possible. And the ‘wow factor’ is our Public Art program. We’ve heard of passengers arriving early just to enjoy the art!”

More eyeballs than ... The Louvre and MOMA?

Photo courtesy of Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee

Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee poses in her Aquarius Art Tunnel in Bush IAH's Terminal D.

And there’s plenty of eyeballs experienced that enjoyment. According to Houston Airports statistics, some 54 million people passed through the city’s two major airports in 2022 (41 million for Bush-IAH; 13 million for Hobby).

By the numbers and by comparison, the famed Louvre Museum in Paris, France (aka “Mona Lisa’s Crib”), only notched 10 million visitors. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art reached just 7 million.

Houston Airports currently has a total of 350 works in its collection, most on display and valued at a whopping $28 million. That makes it one of the largest public art collections in the entire aviation industry, and features works by predominately Texas-based artists.

This collection includes everything from paintings, sculptures, digital works, mixed-media objects, jewelry, and photography to the 75-foot tall Radiant Fountains illuminated towers by Dennis Oppenheim. It greets every visitor driving to or from Bush-IAH on JFK Blvd. and was the recipient of an extensive conservation project last year.

According to DuLaney, the program and funding for the Public Art program began in 1999 with a City of Houston ordinance deeming that 1.75 percent of all eligible construction project budgets would be designated for art to beautify those facilities. An in recent years — given the amount of never-ending airport construction projects — that ends up being considerable dollars set aside for public art.

Big money for great work

“We have a constantly replenishing budget,” DuLaney laughs. “And because it comes from airport fees, there are no tax dollars or taxpayer money spent.”

One of the more interesting new aspects begun last September is the Artist in Residence Program at both Bush-IAH and Hobby. A local, usually full-time artist will set up a mobile studio right in middle of one of the terminals, creating art and talking to passersby for several hours each day. The artist receives a stipend and funds for supplies, and whatever they produce at the end of their three-month residency becomes part of the HA’s permanent collection.

“Currently we have the only active airport with an Artist in Residence Program in the nation,” DuLaney offers. “The idea came a few years back when we had some murals put into the airport, and we noticed that passengers loved to talk to them while they were working. So much that some of them had to come in at night just to get anything done!”

The program was then launched by Dulaney and Liliana Rambo, chief terminal management officer of Houston Airports. DuLaney notes that each artist and their worked are then also shared to a vast audience around the world via passengers’ social media. There are also cultural collaborations with entities like the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, NASA, Houston Botanical Gardens, and the Airport Terminal Museum.

Walking to soar

Another arty addition to Bush-IAH is the Healthy Art Walking Tour (HAWT!). Five works of art are spread throughout the airport, each with a QR code that links to a YouTube video in which DuLaney talks a bit about the piece and trainer Zach McNeil demonstrates a related simple low-impact exercise.

Like a sculpture of a human hand leads to a palm-and-finger workout; a large tree inspires stretching; and a hummingbird in the Greetings from Houston mural takes flight in jumping jacks (though that last one might earn you some curious stares).

Finally, DuLaney is currently at work on creating specific “Gallery Areas” throughout the airports that are specifically designed more like museums. And he’s got a hint for CultureMap readers to the best one so far.

“It’s a hidden gem on the Mezzanine Level of Terminal D by the American Express Centurion Lounge,” he says. “I’ve got about 20 paintings by mostly Houston artists that you can view completely uninterrupted by the usual airport hubbub. There are no gates, no concessions, no overhead announcements, and no carts whizzing by!”

Booming Houston neighborhood restaurant opens flagship location in Katy with Mediterranean-inspired menu and sprawling patio and party space

a bigger table for Katy

A rapidly growing group of local neighborhood restaurants has unveiled its new flagship location. Local Table has opened its new restaurant in Katy.

Located in the former Luby's/Fuddruckers space at 24033 Cinco Ranch Blvd., the new Local Table replaces the original Katy location on Westheimer Parkway. With more than 14,000-square-feet, it offers an expansive patio, a 75-seat private dining room, and enough space for the restaurant's companion Local Bar, a dedicated space for people 21-and-up that offers an expanded selection of cocktails and a larger wine list.

As the concept has evolved, it has also become a destination for families to celebrate anniversaries, baby showers, and other happy occasions. Combined with Local Bar, the restaurant expects to host game watching parties, corporate happy hours, and more.

“Local Table has become a staple for families and is known as a gathering spot for the community. You see Little League teams, birthday celebrations of all ages, and customers simply having a good time,” co-owner Shervin Sharifi said in a statement. “We are excited to expand on that notion, bringing even more space for hosting events, large parties, and combining forces with Local Bar.”

First opened in 2016, the restaurant builds on the legacy of Hungry's, the popular Mediterranean cafe that has two Houston-area locations (with a third on the way this spring). Shervin Sharifi and Neima Sharifi, who are nephews of Hungry's founder Fred Sharifi, partnered with Hungry's co-owner Ashkan Nowamooz and his brothers Arash and Alex. Additionally, Sue Nowamooz, Ashkan's wife, serves as executive chef for both Hungry's and Local Table.

As one would expect from the Hungry's crew, many dishes include Mediterranean-inspired elements such as a gyro pita, a kebab plate, and hummus. Other selections — including chicken fried chicken, short rib tacos, and a bacon jab club sandwich — takes their inspiration from traditional Southern or Texan fare. Gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan items appear throughout the menu.

Local Table has been successful throughout its six-year history, adding locations in Cypress, Fulshear, and Garden Oaks/Oak Forest. A Woodlands location will debut later this year.