Street musicians performing in downtown Winter Park might have to face the music and move elsewhere if a proposed city ordinance becomes law.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board gave its approval last Wednesday for a new ordinance that would restrict street performers to specific free speech zones, banning them from performing along Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and within the Farmers Market.
Fire Chief and Director of Code Compliance Jim White told the board that the unmarked free speech zones would be located at the north end of Central Park near the stage and the south end near the rose garden, as well as adjacent to the Farmers Market area.
“Legally we have to give them a designated area that is adjacent to or nearby the prohibited area,” White said.
“When we do get complaints, this ordinance will allow our officers and the police department to be able to instruct those individuals that are performing to be able to remove themselves from the area of Park Avenue businesses.”
Winter Park has discussed regulating performers along Park Avenue for a number of years after receiving complaints from businesses and restaurants. The Avenue has seen everything from traveling poets to paint bucket drummers.
The shaded area of the Bank of America building beside Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant has been a hot spot for the wandering musicians in the past.
“I can’t file a complaint on behalf of Bank of America, because it’s not my property,” Pannullo’s co-owner Michael Schwartz told the Observer back in 2013. “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.”
A full band that performed along the Avenue earlier this year using a car battery to amplify their guitars and microphones might have been the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” White said.
The Park Avenue Merchants Association began working with Code Compliance shortly after to create the proposed ordinance, which has already been unanimously approved by the merchant association board.
The ordinance would also require petitioners in the Farmers Market to move to a designated area, said Parks and Recreation Director John Holland, adding that the city has had problems with them blocking entry ways and stands.
But Parks and Recreation board member Julio de Acros was reluctant to support the ordinance as written, believing that it was wrong to cluster musicians and performers together in the free speech areas.
“I would like to maybe add a point of allowing the performers to not necessarily be all cooped up in an area competing against each other,” de Acros said. “I think we should give them a little bit more leeway.”
De Acros made motion to add such language, but did not receive support from other board members, who agreed to revisit the issue at a later date.
The ordinance is expected to go before the City Commission during its Nov. 23 meeting.