OCEAN CITY – Boardwalk performers could be seeing stricter regulations in the near future, with concerns about Boardwalk performers aired at last week’s Police Commission meeting.
“I think this year has been difficult with the Boardwalk performers,” said City Clerk Carol Jacobs last week, noting that to date, over 300 permits have been issued.
Performers can be seen up and down the resort Boardwalk during the summer season, performing a variety of acts, from magic tricks to musical performances. While they are not allowed to charge or demand tips for their acts, observers often provide donations to the performers.
“The problem on the Boardwalk, the big problem, is with the business owners. The biggest complaint is they’re in front of the businesses,” said Lieutenant Scott Kirkpatrick.
Another concern amongst Boardwalk businesses is that patrons may be spending money tipping performers, rather than in the stores.
According to the town code, “It is unlawful for any person, upon the boardwalk or upon its benches, stairs and other fixtures, to engage in the public sale, rental or exchange for a donation of any goods, wares, merchandise, foodstuffs, refreshments or other commodities or services.”
Boardwalk performers are allowed with the issuance of a permit. The code calls for the City Clerk to, “upon the making of the required oath and upon payment to him of the sum of $1.00, allow such person to register as an unlicensed solicitor and issue an identification tag or card to such person.”
While Boardwalk performers are allowed, there are a few restrictions. For example, performers are prohibited from using anything other than portable tables or chairs for display and must be mobile. Simply stated, a Boardwalk performer couldn’t set up shop in front of a store and remain there for the entirety of the evening. Performers are also prohibited from having any sort of sound system.
Jacobs explained that problems do arise on the Boardwalk, suggesting that an enforcement mechanism be added to the code.
“The ordinance just needs some type of teeth to it,” she said. “Once they get out on the Boardwalk, then they take advantage.”
Jacobs and the Police Commission agreed that the city solicitor should be consulted before adding any enforcement regulations to the code, in an effort to ensure the protection of performers’ first amendment rights.
“It’s a very fine line there, so that you’re not violating someone’s first amendment rights,” said Jacobs.
“I think we need the city solicitor to weigh in on what we can do,” agreed Mayor Rick Meehan.
The commission agreed to move forward with the issue with the input of City Solicitor Guy Ayres.