Houston Chronicle

Club facing probe in wake of show

- By Nicole Hensley STAFF WRITER

State alcohol authoritie­s are investigat­ing the downtown Houston nightclub Spire for possible public health violations after a packed concert with maskless attendees over the weekend that fire marshals brought to a halt.

The concert took place Saturday at 1720 Main St., where police found several hundred patrons waiting to enter the crowded venue to see R&B singer Trey Songz and New York City rapper Fabolous. Fire marshals then cleared the venue and cited the business for blocking the exits. Clubs such as Spire have been allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity through the pandemic if certain conditions are met — a loophole that has drawn the continued ire of Mayor Sylvester Turner as the region struggles with spikes in coronaviru­s cases.

Investigat­ors with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission were alerted to the packed event, and a spokesman for the agency confirmed Monday that the gathering — and others held at the venue — are under investigat­ion for potential public health order violations.

“If the investigat­ion finds evidence of a violation, the agency could assess a penalty,” said Chris Porter, a commission spokesman.

The state suspended the club’s liquor license for nine days in July and three days in October for violating Gov.

Greg Abbott’s executive order, officials said. But the club has continued to operate, and the mayor has asked the state to review its policies that allow Spire and other clubs to operate as restaurant­s — as long as 51 percent or less of their revenue comes from alcohol sales. Bar owners can sign a sworn statement to that effect or arrange for food service, such as from a food truck.

Zach Trusdell, Spire’s owner, contended that authoritie­s are unfairly targeting his business — which he says has been cooperatin­g with state health mandates.

“The authoritie­s are there all the time, and we are abiding by the rules when they come,” Trusdell, while maskless, told KTRK-TV.

Fallout from the latest bash also prompted a bizarre exchange of words between Turner and the

rapper Bow Wow, who attended at least one event tied to the Spire concert and others over the weekend.

The mayor singled out the Ohio rapper — whose real name is Shad Gregory Moss — in a tweet Sunday that warned that officials would be

keeping an eye on a club gathering he was expected to attend.

“Safe to say the mayor of Houston hates my guts,” the rapper tweeted Monday morning — also adding in a separate post that he was not the only celebrity in Houston this past weekend. “I cant believe I get the blame for a whole weekend.”

The event featuring Bow Wow on Sunday was promoted as part of “Larry Morrow’s Birthday Weekend.”

Morrow is a Louisiana-based events promoter behind the Spire event and another Friday at Cle at 2301 Main St. Both venues are operating as restaurant­s and held performanc­es packed with maskless attendees. Morrow acknowledg­ed the shutdown in a tweet but did not respond to an email request for comment Sunday.

Turner addressed Bow Wow’s tweet later Monday and assured the 33-year-old musician that he held no contempt for him. He said he took issue with event promoters coming to Houston to host the lavish parties.

“While the city is in the midst of this pandemic, nearly 2,000 infected and 17 dying yesterday, this is not the time for concerts,”

Turner wrote. “Help us get past this virus and then do your thing.”

He urged music lovers to stay home instead of going to the concerts — or attend a virtual show instead.

“Just because somebody is putting on a concert — doesn’t mean you should go,” the mayor said. “I shouldn’t have to close something down just to protect your family.”

He also said some bars and clubs along a popular stretch of Washington Avenue in the Rice Military neighborho­od will be “on notice.”

Turner previously has voiced concerns about crowded nightclubs. Last spring, he noted that some were ignoring a 25 percent capacity rule that was in effect. More recently, he took aim at Spire — calling out “selfish” conduct in November after video surfaced of patrons packing the club on Thanksgivi­ng eve.

 ?? Staff file photo ?? Students shoot video and pictures of rap artist Bow Wow during his visit to Sam Houston High School in 2007.
Staff file photo Students shoot video and pictures of rap artist Bow Wow during his visit to Sam Houston High School in 2007.

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