OCEAN CITY – The city is raising the license fee and putting restrictions on boardwalk entertainers who work for donations. The measure was backed by many boardwalk businesses, to whom the entertainers have become a nuisance.
The ordinance raises the license fee from $50 to $200 for the summer season, May 1 to Oct. 31. It sets up two entertainment zones where the entertainers will have less direct impact on local businesses.
The ordinance also sets hours for entertainment and limits the length of time a given entertainer can be in a single spot. It bans actively seeking donations or setting donation amounts.
It sets penalties of up to a $2,000 fine for each offense upon conviction for those who fail to abide by its restrictions.
For the business owners the ordinance was a victory.
Jody Levchuk, a City Council member and boardwalk business owner, likened donation-based entertainment to panhandling, saying in his view it is not appropriate to “our environment that we all love.” Levchuk was part of the unanimous council vote adopting the ordinance at its Thursday, Jan. 25, meeting.
Wes Kazmarck, president of the Boardwalk Merchants Association, called the ordinance a compromise while telling the council the association was fully behind the measure. “We are trying to make this work for everyone,” he said.
Some of the entertainers came to the council meeting to defend the value of what they do. Marie Sacks-Winer, a flutist, said she loved to perform in public and build a bond with the audience. She said she has been a boardwalk entertainer for eight seasons.
There was a time when police would have closed down boardwalk entertainers, but legal challenges in other places, such as Ocean City, Maryland, have led municipalities to seek restrictions rather than outright bans.
For those who visit the Ocean City boardwalk and want to see live entertainment, the areas to go to this summer will be between 5th and 8th streets and between 12th and 14th streets, except on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when no entertainers will be allowed to perform.
Contact the author, Vince Conti, at email@example.com.