Local venues innovate and turn to community amid pandemic measures

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Screenshot from House of Rock's Facebook page

The Blind Owls perform a livestreamed set at the House of Rock as part of a series the venue is hosting to provide entertainment to those remaining at home amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Raul Alonzo Jr., Reporter

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of communities across the globe, taking a particular economic toll on individuals and small businesses. In Corpus Christi, this has included several music venues that rely on crowds coming out to see local and touring artists.

A March 19 announcement by Governor Greg Abbott limited gatherings of more than 10 people across the state, intending to follow social distancing guidelines to stem the spread of the virus as suggested by the Center of Disease Control, impacting how venues operate. A further measure announced on March 25 by Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales imposed a stay-at-home order on the county for two weeks, further limiting the typical way such businesses operate.

According to Stephanie Garcia, Marketing and Public Relations manager for the House of Rock, preparations were being made before the social distancing orders went out. “Once we started seeing events cancel, we knew it would start hitting us,” Garcia said.

The House of Rock added a kitchen in recent years, a move that Garcia said has helped the business stay afloat in recent weeks as they have closed off the bar and venue to the public. Customers can now order food or beverages for curbside pickup or delivery.

The pivot towards takeout and delivery has also led the venue to experiment with their offerings. Garcia says the House of Rock’s DIY pizza kits have been popular, and the venue recently launched a Feed-a-Friend program, which provides a free pizza kit to entertainment or service industry workers who have become unemployed due to the pandemic.

The curbside service and takeout has been a model embraced by other local venues, such as the Black Monk Tavern and Brewster Street Icehouse, which has also included groceries in their offerings. But for venues that don’t have a kitchen to offer the service, adapting to the circumstances has played out differently.

According to Tony Colunga, who runs the local music scene staple The N A S A, news of the growing pandemic forced them to cancel a March 15 show featuring several touring bands out of concern for the attendees. As they moved to cancel others, Colunga said the venue opted to turn towards other means of covering the rent and electricity bills they were facing.

“We had to start a GoFundMe and we made enough rent money for two months, which really helps out,” Colunga said. “The community really pulled through, and I’m glad they support/love our DIY venue. With the help from our community and/or backup funds, we have enough for four months, if needed. Let’s hope this clears up before then.” Should the current circumstances extend beyond then, Colunga says he will likely post another fundraiser on the venue’s Instagram page at nasa_corpus_christi_tx.

Another business next door to the venue, Olive Blue Resale shop, which has remained open for curbside purchases, will continue to operate until further notice, Colunga said. Purchases through the shop, which lists items on their Instagram at oliveblueresale, would be another way to support both the shop and venue.

Though the current practices meant to fight the spread of the virus have temporarily ended the in-person aspect of viewing live music, some venues and groups have turned to the internet to reach their audiences. Groups like Corpus Christi Songwriters have provided showcases of local talent to entertain viewers staying at home, and some local musicians have also followed suit.

This has been another way the House of Rock has sought to retain the spirit of live music amid the crisis. According to Garcia, House of Rock owner Casey Lain early on began talking with local bands and musicians to put on livestreamed performances that fans can view on social media.

The initiative began with local artist Damon Scott and has since included bands like the Blind Owls and The Outraged. Popular local DJ El Dusty also streamed a performance of his Tropicoso party series on the channel.

While the musicians aren’t playing for any audience physically in the venue, Garcia says the House of Rock has still been able to pay through donations from those viewing the stream. “To us, it’s a way to keep the music going,” Garcia said.