Making the Pie Higher

You’re familiar with shopping malls, yes? A building where retailers co-locate to capitalize on larger crowds and economies of scale?

I see you nodding yes, you’ve logged some time in these temples to consumer convenience, and you get it.

Great. Could you please let House of Blues know how this works?

Houston’s House of Blues has filed suit against the landlord/receiver at Houston Pavilions and Scott Gertner, claiming that opening Gertner’s Sky Bar in the Pavilions violates an exclusive use provision in their lease and will cause “irreparable harm” for which House of Blues has “no adequate remedy at law.”

You can read the actual filing in the Houston Chronicle’s article.

Look, Houston’s big. We’ve got plenty of people, plenty to go around.

The biggest threat to the House of Blues business model isn’t  another club opening next door. Another club, especially one that has a great and dedicated following, will bring more people to the Pavilions, training them in how and where to park and making them comfortable exploring a new area.

MORE PEOPLE. That’s exactly what any business needs to be successful. In fact, it is just about the only thing that can make a business thrive. More people, even if some of them are only next door, are not the biggest threat to the House of Blues business model.

The biggest threat to the House of Blues business model could be, in fact, the House of Blues business model.

Instead of co-locating in an area where people are already accustomed to go for live music entertainment, House of Blues sought out tax breaks for pioneering a new entertainment district. It’s risky being a pioneer. The model works only when other people follow your lead.

Hint: your landlord is the receivership for a failed real estate development. Perhaps this wasn’t the ideal spot to stake your claim.

The Houston Pavilions management contacted Gertner. They’re making an effort at keeping the development going. Gertner plans on doing things like offering free valet service for women, and while I don’t appreciate bar owners using women as bait, I applaud him for trying to come up with a solution to Houstonians’ aversion to paying for parking.

And another thing. Houston has quite the #SLGT vibe these days. Scott Gertner is the home team in this match-up. His hustle may not be your hustle, but he’s working it, and he has proven he knows how to pack the house, night after night. That’s something House of Blues hasn’t figured out yet. Can you blame the landlord for placing a bet on someone with proven savvy and snap?

Might I humbly suggest House of Blues send some of the MBA/analyst types it must have on its corporate team to do a case study of the 3700 block of Main?

Way back in the late 1990s, Austin’s venerable Continental Club sent a scouting party down to Houston and decided to open a new club here. It opened when the neighborhood was full of vagrants and was an absolute dead zone between vibrant scenes in Montrose and the 3rd Ward.

The club owners and managers worked really f-king hard for many long years, talking to neighbors, booking local acts (read: employing local musicians), working with police and social service agencies to clean up the neighborhood, staying positive while light rail construction dragged on and on . . . and they are now the hub of two blocks full of vibrant, locally owned businesses, three of which also offer live music. The pie is higher, and still growing.

I had a contract law professor who told us that he would automatically award us points on any exam answer in which we discussed ways that parties to a case could resolve their issues without resorting to lawsuits. Sometimes, and this is one of those times, it makes more sense to find a solution that makes the pie higher* for everyone rather than tying up resources with a legal battle.

I urge the House of Blues to get creative rather than defensive. Take the money you would have spent on legal fees and use it to build good will within the community and improve your own business. Then, once you figure out a way to work with Scott Gertner and your landlord to make all of your businesses stronger, perhaps you can workshop some ideas with the SWA and United folks.

Even in humid Houston, if you have the will to work hard, you can find a way to make the pie higher. I did it with this lemon meringue pie, and I believe that House of Blues can do it if they put their mind to it.

[It will come as no surprise to regular readers that George W. Bush does not fall into my list of favorite American presidents, but I will be forever grateful to him for bringing the phrase “make the pie higher” into our vocabulary. I’m all for higher pies; I disagree with him that tax cuts for the wealthy are the way to get there, but higher pies, YES.]

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