OC’s Busker Lottery System Underway

OCEAN CITY — With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, the new and improved ordinance adopted this spring appears to have, at least temporarily, resulted in relative peace and calm on the Boardwalk busker front.

Many street performers railed against last year’s new registration process and a handful even sued the city over the cumbersome process along with other issues in a case that is still plodding along in federal court. However, the Boardwalk Task Force last fall began systematically tackling the many issues and in March, the Mayor and Council accepted the task force recommendations after adding a few revisions of its own and the new busker ordinance went into effect on May 1.

Now, it’s fair to say a rainy, cold month of May has reduced the number of buskers performing on the Boardwalk thus far, but the arrival of Memorial Day weekend and a solid forecast for great weather is expected to test the changes.

According to City Clerk Diana Chavis, who monitors the street performer ordinance and presides over the registration process, the transition has been a smooth one thus far although the sample size is decidedly small. Chavis said the town held a lottery on Monday for the 33 designated spots on the Boardwalk for street performers and 18 buskers were on hand at 9:30 a.m. when her office opened. Chavis said she expected that number to increase somewhat throughout the week because more buskers could register since not all of the spaces were filled.

“It will probably pick up through the week,” she said. “This is a much better process. They’re not standing in line out in front of City Hall to sign up like they were last year. This has definitely streamlined the process.”

One significant change is the new ordinance includes a lottery system whereby performers would sign up a week in advance in two separate drawings. One lottery will allocate the Boardwalk spots from Monday to Thursday, while the second would allocate the spots from Thursday to Sunday.

The intent is to level the playing field. Chavis said subtle flaws in the ordinance might be discovered as the season moves forward, but thus far it is working as designed.

“It’s a little cumbersome deciding who goes where,” she said. “For example, they wouldn’t want a guitar player right next to another guitar player. They’re pretty good at trying to coordinate that themselves. They’re working with the new policy. At this point, we’re all trying to figure out what works best.”