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Photo by: Tim Freed - Whether any music can be played at all may come down to a matter of taste, as Commissioners debate how to balance merchant needs against cultural flair.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 8 years ago

City mulls halting street music

Winter Park questions taste
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Street musicians along Park Avenue may have to pick up their instruments and move elsewhere depending on the general consensus of merchants along the Avenue.

Complaints from Park Avenue merchants about musicians playing outside their doors have sprung up since early last year – an issue that the Winter Park City Commission revisited during their meeting earlier this month.

The City Commission discussed whether or not a city ordinance regulating the music would be necessary, and what the possible regulation could look like.

“There may be a way to do this in a manner that everybody can be happy about it,” said Commissioner Carolyn Cooper. “I’m not looking to ban them, I’m looking at a way maybe to upgrade the quality and specify the location.”

The complaints were originally discussed at a City Commission meeting in February of last year, with the City Commissioners voting to get a recommendation from the Park Avenue Merchants Association.

Winter Park’s Planning and Community Development Director Dori Stone said that merchants are still at odds on what to do about the street performers a year and a half later.

Musicians sighted along the Avenue range from strumming guitarists to paint bucket drummers, usually playing outside of businesses opposite Central Park.

One strip of sidewalk-turned-stage sits in front of Be On Park, a local jewelry store that’s endured the street music for more than two years, said co-owner David Blumberg.

Be On Park will leave its doors open a hot day to welcome in customers, but not without letting in the outside music that clashes with the big-band tunes piped throughout the store.

Blumberg expressed concerns of how the street musicians’ music potentially hurts the store’s ambiance.

“It really does cause financial problems for businesses like us,” Blumberg said.

“We can’t move our store, but they can take their business and move somewhere else.”

The shaded area of the Bank of America building beside Pannullo’s Italian restaurant remains a hot spot for the wandering musicians.

But while the space is often used by street performers, restaurant co-owner Michael Schwartz said that customers rarely hear good music, and that his hands are tied due to the current code.

“I can’t file a complaint on behalf of Bank of America, because it’s not my property,” Schwartz said. “They could be one inch from my front door, literally, playing a very loud instrument badly, and because they’re not standing on my property, it presents a problem.”

“That’s why I feel like there needs to be some tightening up of the code.”

Stone said that the city staff needs a recommendation from the Park Avenue Merchants Association before an ordinance can go before the City Commission.

“We’d like to get a consensus on it,” Stone said. “We don’t like to bring things to the board that the merchants, business owners and owners don’t want or don’t like.”

But the potential regulation of street musicians and their music raises deeper questions about free speech, which Mayor Ken Bradley addressed following the recent City Commission Meeting.

“I believe in limited law and limited regulation,” Bradley said. “There are some on this Commission who’d love to tell you how big your house should be, what color it should be painted, whether you can touch it or not, what you can sing inside of it and what you can sing outside of it. I tend not to be that kind of a person.”

“We have to differentiate our taste from freedom of speech.”

City staff plans to reach out again to the Park Avenue Merchants Association to get a consensus, and potentially a recommendation.

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