City of Houston

Houston City Council passes ordinance requiring permits for outdoor music events

According to city and law officials, numerous private events have taken place without sufficient planning, which results in the city having to intervene and city resources being spent by requiring police and first responders at events.

Amy Harris/Invision/AP
Festival goers are seen at day one of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston.

The Houston City Council approved on Wednesday to place firm new rules on outdoor music events held on private property with an attendance of 500 or more people by requiring permits.

Houston City Council delayed making a vote on the ordinance last week due to At-Large Council Member Mike Knox tagging the item because he felt the ordinance unfairly targets the music industry.

"There's car shows on private property, parking lots and various places where there’s large numbers of people, well more than 500, who create the same kinds of security and clean up issues and these are apparently unaddressed in this particular ordinance," he said.

According to city and law officials, numerous private events have taken place without sufficient planning, which results in the city having to intervene and city resources being spent by requiring police and first responders at events. Mayor Sylvester Turner referenced a private event that occurred last year – that law enforcement and the mayor's special events department – were concerned might bring upon unforeseen safety issues.

"This particular ordinance came up to address that particular event dealing with people, producers, who decide, for example, on the spur the moment that they want to hold this event," Turner said.

The ordinance requires the event planner to provide security, staffing and traffic plans, and emergency contact information. Event producers will be required to pay the application fee of $62.66 for their event, and events with less than 30 days’ notice will be required to pay an expedited processing fee of $200.

Turner said without enforcing the permit – if an incident happens – the city will be held responsible although it’s not a city-planned event.

"Even though it’s on private property, if it gets out of hand, it’s happening in the city of Houston, and we are going to get blamed for it, because people are going to say, why didn’t we do something," he said. "And with social media and everything, all of a sudden you got hundreds, hundreds, if not thousands of people showing up and something happens and then here we are in the news."

Knox suggested the city remove the word "music" out of the ordinance and apply the permit to all large events. Knox ultimately decided to withdraw his proposal to amend the word "music" out of the ordinance after not receiving support from the other council members.

"The same risks apply at a music industry that apply to any other large, unintended or unknown political [event], any kind of an event at all and so if it’s the public is invited – the same risk that you’d have at a music festival, you’d also have at that event," he said. "I think that I’m satisfied that I’ve done my part on this thing, so I’m going to withdraw my motion and we’ll just vote on the main motion."

Council member Abbie Kamin said the ordinance was not a new ordinance to just put on the agenda. It was brought forth during a special committee meeting on October 13 to discuss the need to enforce measures on outdoor events held on private property.

"This addresses a particular need that our departments, our law enforcement, our special events department, Mayor, your team, has identified as a problem that we can address," she said. "There have been actual instances where there’s on private property, someone wants to throw a big music festival, the city learns about it within a day or two – there’s been no proper planning, there’s been no safety measures in place – and the city that has to step in, HPD has to step in, at the expense of the city and unable to recoup those costs."

The new ordinance passed on a 15-1 vote and will take effect in 90 days in order to notify those communities or individuals that will be affected by the new rule.

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