OCEAN CITY – Some Boardwalk performers submitted last-minute concerns this week over a new ordinance regulating busking on the Boardwalk.
This week an ordinance regulating street performers on the Boardwalk that will force buskers to sign up for designated locations from the Inlet to 9th Street, among other things, came before the Mayor and City Council on first reading.
The ordinance states, “The Director shall designate spaces on the Boardwalk between and including South 1st Street and 9th Street … will be available on a first-come, first-serve allocation and selection system for two periods of use; the first period shall be Monday through Thursday and the second period shall be Friday through Sunday … the Designated Spaces will be available for selection twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays one week in advance …”
Each designated space from the Inlet to 9th Street will be a maximum of 10 feet by 10 feet and a minimum of five feet by five feet, and a three-foot clear area around each fire hydrant must be maintained as well as a safe separation from the Boardwalk tram lane.
A list of rules and regulations governing performers and vendors on the entire Boardwalk from the Inlet to 27th Street is also included in the ordinance, such as a performer or vendor may mark the boundary of a space with a rope laid on the surface of the Boardwalk; no performer or vendor can have any item exceeding four feet above ground, allow any street end of designated space to be enclosed, or affix props or equipment to the Boardwalk surface; no performer or vendor occupying a location at a street end or designated space can leave items unattended for a period longer than 15 consecutive minutes; and a performer or vendor having selected a designated space or on street ends between 10th and 27th streets will have use of that area from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. during the week, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends.
Prior to the council casting a vote, a few Boardwalk performers took the opportunity to voice their opinion.
Painter/Caricature artist Michael Moeller stated the limitation of equipment not to exceed four feet is unrealistic.
“Personally one thing I find completely unworkable and appalling is the limitation on height. In a sitting position to have my drawing board and easel in a position that does not wreck my body, my back and arm in pain … four feet is restrictively too low. In a standing position many artists practice plein air painting, and standing up there is no way a four-foot canvas or paper will be functional. Performers that act on top of a latter, such as the juggler, will be out of luck. Even an upright string base would be out of luck or a violinist with a music stand at an appropriate height wouldn’t be able to stand and play, so I think that is a tremendous infringement on the performers,” he said.
Moeller furthered another issue is limiting the buskers to performing until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on the weekends.
“Sometimes I use music as part of my performance but I am also capable of performing soundlessly and completely unobtrusively. I am not bothering anyone, so there shouldn’t be any restriction on me as far as how late I can be out on the Boardwalk. Just like there is no restriction to any other pedestrian or patron of a bar or restaurant…I feel that it is infringing on my right to perform,” he said.
Moeller stated performers who have a another job are being discriminated against if they are unable to come to Town Hall by 9 a.m. on sign up days for a designated space because they are working. Additionally, if a performer is unable to use his or her designated space the entire day, there is no reason why another performer shouldn’t be able to use the space.
“I have always been told you have to fix the problem with the smallest hammer first, and if that doesn’t work go with a bigger hammer. The changes that are being made are tremendous sweeping changes … why not start with small changes this year and see if they solve the problem before you bring out the sledge hammer,” he said.
Magician/Comedian Joe Smith agreed with Moeller in restricting a designated space to one performer.
“If you have to register for a spot, on the surface that sounds ok but, but for example I was down for a few days because I was sick, so if I had registered for a spot and because of illness couldn’t use it, why shouldn’t somebody else be able to use it,” he asked. “I think there should at least be some modifications.”
Musician Alex Young also echoed Moeller’s concern over a time restriction.
“I understand people are trying to sleep. However, most of us out there play acoustically and I am pretty sure there is already a noise ordinance,” he said. “The bars are open until 2 a.m. and there are still people on the Boardwalk. Some people like me like playing into the night on the Boardwalk. It is therapeutic and fun. Please don’t let a few bad apples ruin it for the rest of us that try to enrich the Ocean City experience for everyone and share our art.”
Taking the comments into consideration, the council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance on first reading. The second and final reading will take place on June 15, and if approved the ordinance will go into effect July 27.