🎵 Ocean City, NJ, cracking down on boardwalk performers

🎵 Boardwalk businesses claim buskers are harmful

🎵 Performers argue they add value

A New Jersey Shore town is silencing the music often heard on its famous boardwalk.

Under pressure from boardwalk merchants, the Ocean City Council has approved severe restrictions on those who play music for money.

It's called busking. While it is more common in many urban areas, seeing and hearing musicians hoping you'll drop a few coins in their guitar case has also become a staple on many New Jersey boardwalks.

Photo: Jody Levchuk/Facebook
Photo: Jody Levchuk/Facebook

Boardwalk businesses in Ocean City say they are an annoyance that drives people away and have pressured city officials to do something about it.

Not an outright ban

Ocean City council members rejected the idea of an outright busker ban, but have passed an ordinance that makes it more costly to get a street performer permit and severely limits when and where they can play.

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Among the new rules:

🎵 Permits now cost $200 each, and give the busker a very specific area in which they must remain.

🎵 Performances are now limited to between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. five days a week.

🎵 Performance districts have been created that moves buskers far away from most boardwalk businesses.

🎵 Broad powers have also been given to police to kick performers off the boardwalk if they draw crowds that impede pedestrian traffic, even if they have a permit.

🎵 Violators can now be fined up to $2,000.

🎵 The restrictions will be in place during peak tourist season, between May 1 and Oct. 31 and begin this year.

Not everyone agrees with the restrictions

Ocean City has long cultivated an image of a family friendly destination at the Jersey shore, and local officials say this helps to maintain that image.

While most business owners applauded the change, the performers themselves were distraught.

They acknowledge busking is a form a panhandling, but also argue it adds value and enjoyment to the boardwalk. Kids, they say, are especially attracted to the music they play.

Ocean City boardwalk
Ocean City boardwalk (Chris Coleman, Townsquare Media)

Council members did concede that some performers are quite good and continue to be welcome. The problem, said Councilman Jody Levchuk, is not everyone is good.

Before voting for the ordinance, Levchuck remarked, "Not everybody sounds like the three tenors up there."

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