The so-called street performers now know their place in Ocean City.
The Ocean City Mayor and Council seemed unified this week as it passed a new ordinance refining the rules governing these performers. The main change restricts where these performers, also known as peddlers, can do their thing. The ordinance reads, “It shall be unlawful for any person engaging in the permitted activity of peddling, soliciting, hawking or street performing on the boardwalk to: (1) exercise or perform such activity or display in any area of the boardwalk other than within the area encompassed in the extended boundaries of the street ends.”
There are a number of individuals who set up shop along the Boardwalk during the summer season. Some sing and play their acoustic guitars, others show off the harmonica skills, some dress up like cartoon characters for photo ops, others perform duets and some just perform some unique skills they have learned along the way.
There are many disparate views on these performers, some of which actually have some talent. Clearly, some do not and are simply begging for money along a crowded stretch of prime real estate.
We would like to see all the various side-acts, granted permits from the town, be removed from the Boardwalk, but the fact is they have a Constitutional right to perform on public property. We think they cheapen the Boardwalk experience and disagree with supporters who allege they bring a unique culture to the promenade.
Nonetheless, street performers have been Boardwalk fixtures for years, and they will continue to be for seasons to come. The city is charged with ensuring they do not adversely affect commerce in a detrimental way. The ordinance passed this week addresses that.
An argument was recently made these street performers are competing financially with Boardwalk merchants. It has been said the tips these performers receive is money that might otherwise be spent in Boardwalk stores. We do not buy that. It’s wrong to assume the performers are intercepting money from being spent in retail outlets. These tips, mainly small bills and loose change, represent a form of applause and appreciation to these performers.
However, the City Council was correct in limiting where the street performers can set up shop on any given day or night. Although we believe it’s the exception rather than the norm, there have been cases cited when performers have played their music and executed their tricks directly in front of Boardwalk stores, which pay an enormous amount of rent for their prime space. If that in fact is happening, that’s wrong, and the city was right to step in to address those situations, which clearly represent people taking advantage of a good thing.
Limiting the performers to a small space at the street ends make sense, and that way the Constitutional right of an individual to sing, dance and perform does not impair a business’s fundamental right to make a sale.