by Jeremy Morrison
The Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board released a set of draft guidelines today (April 5) designed to “preserve the authenticity of what street performances represent.” The proposed guidelines are an attempt “to encourage artistic expression at downtown sidewalks, plazas and parks while protecting the rights of visitors, businesses and performers,” according to a statement from the agency.
The Pensacola City Council is currently considering an ordinance which targets panhandling in the downtown core, but in effect would also ban street performers from the area. Over the last week, DIB officials have looked to communities like Asheville, N.C. and San Antonio, Texas to assess how other cities address street performing, or busking in an effort to salvage the activity from the proposed ordinance.
In the DIB’s statement, Executive Director Curt Morse differentiated buskers from panhandlers.
“It’s important not to confuse street performers with panhandlers,” Morse said. “In my experience, buskers don’t like to be referred to as ‘panhandlers’ and most downtown Pensacola performers aren’t homeless. They perform because they love the art.”
The draft guidelines, which appear to be taken nearly-verbatim from Asheville’s own busking pilot program, address issues such as sidewalk obstruction, noise ordinances and alcohol consumption. The guidelines also indicate there will be several, yet-to-be-determined locations designated as performance areas, in which performers must observe a 120-foot separation.
The DIB has also borrowed a code of “etiquette” from the Asheville Buskers Collective, an organization which worked with the city of Asheville to hammer out its own operational blueprint which was launched as a pilot program this January. The “etiquette,” which in Asheville has not taken the form of a law, but acts rather as an accepted code of conduct within the busking community itself, addresses issues such as performance lengths and crowd size, as well as urging buskers to “be a good neighbor.” One noted aspect of the etiquette guidelines that is unique to Pensacola and is not lifted from Asheville’s addresses performers “clearly not having talent enough to draw a small crowd.”
Morse noted in the statement that the DIB consulted downtown businesses, as well as street performers and homeless advocates as it considered how to address busking. The agency, which represents downtown businesses and requested the city address panhandling in the area, will finalize the guidelines over the next week; community input is being requested.
For information on the April 6 busking protest planned for downtown, read “Protest Song.”
The following is from the DIB, and outlines the draft busking guidelines, as well as its Guide to The Local Etiquette:
These regulations help maintain the vibrant atmosphere of downtown while protecting the rights of pedestrians, businesses, and performers.
Artistic performances on the city sidewalks are a vital and welcome part of Pensacola’s unique character and culture. Street performances are distinguished from panhandling activities by the commercial nature of the performer’s actions which provide the benefit of a live performance of artistic value in exchange for gratuities given in appreciation of the performance.
Persons have a right to perform on public property, but those performers can cause adverse impacts to the community in the form of gathering crowds attracted to the entertainment offered in locations where there is insufficient room for crowds; blocked sidewalks; blocked ingress and egress of buildings; the risk of disruptive nearby motor vehicles traffic; and/or disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of residence and businesses.
Such adverse impacts can be mitigated or alleviated through minimally intrusive regulation of time, place and/or manner in which such performances may occur. These regulations ensure the ability of street performers to perform in public spaces and promotes harmony among street performers, local businesses, permitted event sponsors and residents and visitors by balancing the interests of performing artists with the public’s safety.
Performers may utilize sidewalks subject to the following guidelines:
Not violate the prohibitions set forth in the County Noise Abatement Ordinance.
Not obstruct or cause to be obstructed pedestrian or vehicular traffic, sidewalks, doorways, or other access areas.
Performers must provide a minimum of six feet for pedestrian passageway.
Not sell, display or exhibit any tangible good, on any sidewalk, in exchange for a fixed price or donation.
Perform only at times between the hours of 10am and 10pm.
Not consume or be under the influence of alcoholic beverages or other controlled substances while performing.
Performances involving the use of knives, swords, torches, axes, saws (except non- powered saws used solely as musical instruments), fire, or other potentially dangerous objects or that involve acrobatics, tumbling, or other inherently dangerous activities are prohibited.
Performances are not to take place any closer than 40 feet from another performer with additional regulations within two designated High Impact Areas.
PERFORMANCE AREAS: Several locations (TBD) have been identified as Performance Areas. These are high impact areas located within the Downtown Visitors’ District. Only one audible performance may take place on a sidewalk at a single time within 120 feet of the location marked on the sidewalk for busking. Non-audible performances must be a minimum of 40 feet from an audible performance in the High Impact Area.
Performances must not take place at locations designated for a community event or festival, unless permitted to play by the event or festival organizer or coordinator.
Performances must comply with all applicable federal state, and local laws.
The Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board is working to make busking a sustainable and fun part of downtown life in Pensacola. Here is our Guide To The Local Etiquette.
We take two hour turns. Two hours from when you first set up, not from when someone’s waiting on you. This gives everyone a chance to share peak times. If you want to busk all day, be prepared to change locations. Be prepared to wait your turn.
Watch your crowd size! Make sure folks can get by and that if they aren’t spilling into the street. Be especially mindful of crosswalks. You must have six feet of sidewalk space for pedestrians to go by.
Keep your amps turned down and the drum kits baffles. You’re working with other performers and businesses nearby, be reasonable and play only to “your area.” If your volume prevents others from performing nearby, you’re too loud.
Introduce yourself to the businesses you’re performing near and to other buskers on the street. Getting to know your busking neighbors creates a great musical community!
Keep your footprint small. Bring only the instruments your need for your performance. Pick up your trash, not step on plants, and leave your spot cleaner than you found it.
The most common complaints received are performances that are too loud, playing repetitive songs, and clearly not having talent enough to draw a small crowd. During the day, be mindful of office workers. At night, be mindful of residents.
Pensacola loves its buskers! Remember that you represent not just yourself, but all buskers in Pensacola. Leave everyone with a good memory. Have fun, and be a good neighbor.