Pandemic takes toll on Cy-Fair music scene

Weekend gigs have been hard to come by for musicians based in the Cy-Fair area since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy Mark Childres; Design by Kaitlin Schmidt/Community Impact Newspaper)
Weekend gigs have been hard to come by for musicians based in the Cy-Fair area since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy Mark Childres; Design by Kaitlin Schmidt/Community Impact Newspaper)

Weekend gigs have been hard to come by for musicians based in the Cy-Fair area since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy Mark Childres; Design by Kaitlin Schmidt/Community Impact Newspaper)

Weekend gigs have been hard to come by for musicians based in the Cy-Fair area since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mark Childres regularly played live music at local businesses, including Creekwood Grill, Murdoch’s Backyard Pub, Brew:30 Taphouse and Twisted Acre Brewery, before state and local officials began placing restrictions on businesses in March due to the spread of COVID-19.

Only one of these four businesses continued to host live musicians on the weekends this summer, so Childres said the number of events he has been able to book is down about 75% compared to how often he would perform in pre-pandemic conditions.

“It’s down considerably,” he said. “Some musicians are scaling back due to their own safety, and some are just playing outside now instead of inside. It’s personal preference, as far as what people are comfortable with.”

Cy-Fair-area music venues are primarily local breweries and restaurants with bars, including Mo’s Irish Pub, Hidden Cellar Wine Bar, Rosehill Beer Garden, Texas Tavern, Cypress Trail Hideout and the Barn at Frio Grill.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has mandated restaurants cannot exceed a 50% capacity limit. Additionally, bars and other establishments that receive more than 51% of revenue from alcoholic beverage sales are only authorized to offer delivery and takeout services.

Venues face challenges

Murdoch’s Backyard Pub, located on Mueschke Road in Cypress, used to host live music three times every week. Tonya Frye coordinates marketing and events at the local spot, and she said these events among others are on hold for now.

“There was no one to play to at first, and now, business is low,” she said in a phone interview Aug. 19. “If we don’t have many people there, then we can’t have music. And we still have the social distancing—music and social distancing usually don’t go hand in hand, unfortunately.”

Frye said she is used to overseeing a range of events in the property’s 3-acre backyard, but even a graduation party of 40 people earlier this summer took over the entire space, so holding events of any kind has become a challenge due to social distancing policies.

Murdoch’s continues to be open for outdoor dining and takeout, but Frye said she is hopeful about bringing some events back to the business in September.

The pandemic has resulted in added expenses for the business, including personal protective equipment for staff and the hiring of additional workers just to sanitize surfaces on the property throughout the day, Frye said.

Locally owned mom-and-pop businesses like Murdoch’s are struggling to stay afloat just like musicians are, she said.

Apart from his music career, Childres is a small business owner himself and said during the shutdown, he offered to play solely for tips despite decreased foot traffic at the venues that have supported him over time. Many full-time musicians are in a more difficult position, he said.

Childres said he is grateful he still has the ability and opportunity to perform during the pandemic. He recalled a friend who had to cancel a show after a band member was exposed to COVID-19.

“Since I’m a little bit older, we’re trying to play it safe because you never know,” Childres said. “You try to do the best you can do, but it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t end up getting sick.”

The staff at Creekwood Grill, where Childres continues to perform, has implemented many safety measures, including having staff and diners wear masks and sanitizing tables between visitors. The stage at the restaurant is elevated, so musicians are not in close contact with others during performances.

Childres said some of his peers have taken their talents to Facebook Live and found other ways to innovate with the limited resources they had in recent months.

Although he cannot predict how long the pandemic will last, Childres said he is hopeful about the future of Cy-Fair’s music industry.

“I’m concerned about it, but [I'm] being optimistic that the virus will get under control to where more musicians can go out and perform and show their talents,” he said.
By Danica Lloyd
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She covers education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


Cy-Fair ISD's board of trustees unanimously approved 5% pay raises for employees on June 24. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD approves 5% employee pay raises, $1.09B budget for FY 2021-22

Hourly employees in the district will also be eligible for a $1,000 stipend in 2021-22.

Those who have fallen behind on rent may qualify for emergency assistance. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Northwest Assistance Ministries to provide emergency rental assistance to those in need

Residents may qualify for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program if they made less than $99,000 this year, qualified for a stimulus check, are unable to pay full rent due to income loss or medical expenses, and if eviction means they will experience homelessness or enter a shared living space.

Clean and Clear Pool Supplies offers maintenance, DIY supplies and more. (Courtesy Clean and Clear Pool Supplies)
Clean and Clear Pool Supplies opening soon in Cy-Fair

The pool supply company specializes in maintenance, free water testing, repairs, DIY supplies and automation.

Sandstone has a number of offices located in the north Houston area. (Courtesy Sandstone Chiropractic)
Sandstone Chiropractic opens new office in Cypress

The business has several offices throughout in the north Houston area.

Taste of Cajun opened in Cypress in 2018. (Courtesy Taste of Cajun)
Taste of Cajun closes its doors on Barker Cypress Road

Owners announced they did not renew the restaurant's lease and have no plans to relocate at this time.

The Kinder Institute for Urban Research released its 2021 State of Housing for Harris County and Houston report on June 22. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kinder Institute 2021 State of Housing report highlights rental squeeze for lower, middle-income households

As of 2019, one in every 11 renters in Harris County had an eviction notice posted to their door; one in every 25 renter households were also evicted.

The craft beer industry is growing in the Greater Houston area. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Greater Houston area's craft brewery count grows 344% since 2013

According to NAI Partners, the Greater Houston area has 71 craft breweries.

The 21,000-square-foot venue is able to seat 877 people. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
GALLERY: Cypress Creek FACE to celebrate 25th season with long-anticipated return to The Centrum

"When we lost The Centrum to flooding during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, we thought that was hard, but being forced to close down by a pandemic for over a year has been heartbreaking," said Nanci Decker, Cypress Creek Foundation for the Arts and Community Enrichment executive director.

The Barker Reservoir watershed encompasses the area that drains into Barker Reservoir. This reservoir, together with Addicks Reservoir, was created as part of a federal project to control flooding on Buffalo Bayou and protect downtown Houston. (Courtesy Harris County Flood Control District)
FEMA awards $9.8M to Harris County Flood Control District to restore Barker Reservoir watershed

The funding is aimed at restoring water channels, including Mason Creek and Upper Buffalo Bayou, to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels of conveyance by removing sand and sediment buildup caused by the storm, officials said.

Jersey Village City Council approved new homestead exemptions for qualifying residents at their June 21 meeting. (Courtesy Pexels)
Jersey Village City Council increases disabled, over-65 homestead exemptions

The exemptions for disabled and over-65 homeowners were raised to $200,000 and $100,000, respectively.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special legislative session will begin July 8. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces special legislative session to start July 8

Agenda items will be announced before the session begins, according to a release from the governor's office.