Boardwalk Street Performer Regs Tightened

OCEAN CITY – Street performer guidelines became even stricter this week, as the ordinance outlining their regulations to perform on the Boardwalk moved toward first reading.

A couple of weeks ago, City Clerk Kathy Mathias and Police Chief Bernadette DiPino presented the Mayor and City Council with proposed regulations on street performers on the Boardwalk.

Due to congestion and noise complaints, Mathias and DiPino requested the council consider 18 specific locations for the street performers, which would be allocated in a daily lottery at City Hall designating a performer’s space and time to perform.

Officials also recommended a code change to have the performers comply with the noise ordinance so that they would have to end their performance by midnight as well as the performers be required to take a 15-minute break every half an hour as a way to move the crowd along and prevent congestion.

Mathias also explained that there are so-called performers who simply dress in costumes and take pictures with the Boardwalk’s visitors for tips. She stated that these characters do not meet the test of a true street performer. She recommended the language in the city code be changed to define street performers.

The last recommendation was to increase the permit fee. It is currently $7.50 and is proposed to be increased to $10, which would accurately reflect the true cost in issuing a permit.

During that meeting, a motion was passed to approve the recommendations as well as provide regulations on the restriction of music and lighting and providing extra space where the new ordinance would take locations away from performers in congested areas.

After researching the matter, City Solicitor Guy Ayres returned to the subject this week with changes to the proposed code concerning street performers on the Boardwalk.

“I felt that the proposal … was too restrictive” Ayres said. “It was very similar to one out of Florida that the court shut down.”

Ayres proposed ordinance include the following changes:

ν    Fifteen designated locations from S. First Street to N. Division Street with two added locations — one at Worcester Street and the other at S. Division Street.

ν    Hours for street performers will be 8 a.m. to midnight with the noted locations being subject to a weekly lottery for the prime hours of 6 p.m. to midnight.

ν    If performers are interested in participating in the lottery, but not successful in gaining a spot, they can go to street ends to the north of North Division Street or elsewhere in town. Their hours still end at midnight.

ν    During the day, performers can go to any of the designated locations until the 6 p.m. lottery designated performer arrives for their allocated position.

ν    The areas will be marked and numbered.

ν    These guidelines will be in effect from the Friday of Memorial Day through Labor Day Monday.

Councilwoman Mary Knight asked Ocean City Police Lieutenant Scott Kirkpatrick if the listed regulations and lottery would help the police force, and he immediately responded yes.

“That’s enough for me,” Knight said.

She made a motion to accept the proposed ordinance to set guidelines for street performers on the Boardwalk and to move it forward to first reading.

The council voted 5-2 to approve the motion, with Councilman Joe Hall and Councilman Brent Ashley in opposition.