Council Discusses Relocating Street Performers To Assist Disturbed Businesses; Mayor Says, ‘We Should All Stand Together’

Council Discusses Relocating Street Performers To Assist Disturbed Businesses; Mayor Says, ‘We Should All Stand Together’
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OCEAN CITY – Due to the attention “OC’s Pole Doll” is gathering, businesses are asking for the city to consider relocating street performers on the Boardwalk.

Attorney Joe Moore, representing Shannon Tippett of the Mug & Mallet located at 2nd Street and the Boardwalk, came before the Mayor and City Council at the conclusion of Monday evening’s legislative session to voice concerns over the latest addition to street performers on the Boardwalk, “OC’s Pole Doll.”

“The entertainer on 2nd Street, as we all know, certainly draws an inordinate amount of people. The requirements of Boardwalk performers are to locate themselves so that they do not block any pedestrian or vehicle ramps to the Boardwalk,” he said.

Moore provided photographs of the crowd formed around the performer on 2nd Street on Saturday night causing the ramps at that street end to be impassible.

The Mug & Mallet’s entrance to the restaurant is immediately adjacent to the south ramp on 2nd Street. According to Moore, Tippet had to compensate over $500 in sales on Saturday of customers who were dining outside at the restaurant and were leaving due to the crowds.

Moore has also received a letter from Joe Kroart, owner of Ocean Gallery located on the north side of 2nd Street and the Boardwalk, who is also experiencing issues with the crowds gathering around the performer.

“What happened on Saturday evening, while the police are attempting to control the crowd, the patrons walking down the Boardwalk are detoured substantially to the east of the Boardwalk because the entertainer is located at the head of 2nd Street,” Moore said. “My request would be for the council to consult the police chief and Boardwalk officers to move the entertainer to the east side of the Boardwalk, therefore the Boardwalk patrons can walk on the west side of the Boardwalk with reasonable access to businesses that are all located on the west side of the Boardwalk.”

City Solicitor Guy Ayres had already advised Moore the concern would be the entertainer would then be located on the concrete pad where the Boardwalk tram travels.

A former boardwalk business owner, Mitrecic understood Tippett’s frustration and made a motion to have the Police Chief Ross Buzzuro contacted over the matter.

“Not that I think the best thing is for the entertainer that sets up there be on the east side of the Boardwalk either, but I do know it would certainly be an impediment to any outdoor dining and restaurant there that is trying to do business,” he said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned if the town is capable to take such action on only one street.

“Other street ends are involved with street performers as well. Is it not possible to say when on a street end they can only be on east side of the Boardwalk, and give relief to all of the different streets having the problem,” she asked.

Councilman Dennis Dare interjected the issue lies with one performer and the resolution most likely falls in enforcing the laws that are already on the books.

“You want to prohibit everybody here including somebody with a guitar that sits there and really doesn’t draw much of a crowd, and now you are going to say they can’t be on the west side and that they have to be on the east side,” Dare said.

Moore clarified the request is to simply keep the west side of the Boardwalk open.

“I think what you do is if you can accommodate their [street performer] right to be there, the public’s right to travel the Boardwalk, and the business person’s right to have reasonable access to the businesses I think that is what you ought to do on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Ocean City’s existing law concerning street performers states, “it shall be unlawful for any person engaging in … street performing on the boardwalk … to exercise or perform such activity or display in any area of the boardwalk other than within the area encompassed within the extended boundaries of the street ends, except for the area encompassed within the extended boundaries from the south side of the boardwalk ramp on the south side of N. Division St. to the north side of the boardwalk ramp on the north side of N. Division St., where such activity is also prohibited … set up any display on or within ten feet of tables, adjacent property entrance or exit, or boardwalk tram lane. Obstruct or block pedestrian or vehicular traffic, the entrance to ramps and stairways to the beach, the entrance to comfort stations, the concrete pads on the east side of the boardwalk, public telephones, or trash receptacles…Use nudity, pornographic materials, or obscenity in any display or performance …”

The council voted 6-1 with Dare opposed to work with the chief of police in keeping the ramps open on the Boardwalk by possibly moving some of the street performers to the east side.

“We will simply identify the concern and ask for an evaluation to keep the ramps open and the flow of traffic moving on the Boardwalk, and let them [police] come back to us with their professional recommendation, including enforcement and how they would do that,” City Manager David Recor said.

Mayor Rick Meehan acknowledged ongoing visitor and resident concerns regarding “OC Pole Doll.”

“It is unfortunate someone has taken the rights granted by the First Amendment further than anyone here ever expected or anyone here supports,” the mayor said.

Meehan recalled the city’s attempts to place further regulations on street performers in the past leading to challenges by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) twice in the past year in federal court and Ocean City lost.

“I want to assure the citizenry and the public that we plan to aggressively continue to address this issue and all of the problems associated with it. We realize that it is a constitutional right, and we support that, but there should be things we can do to make this work better and we will continue to pursue that,” the mayor said. “What we should not allow to happen is let one individual create so much negative energy towards Ocean City. We should not collectively allow one individual to distract from all we have to offer and be proud of here in Ocean City. We should not let one individual disturb anyone from coming to Ocean City. I have been on the Boardwalk almost every night this past week, and I have watched thousands of families continue to enjoy Ocean City every single night. Nothing has changed … I think we should all stand together and continue to encourage everybody to stand up for all we have in Ocean City and make it clear we will not let one person take that away.”