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Winston-Salem cracking down on street performers downtown

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The city commonly known as "The City of the Arts," for its many theaters, arts festivals' and being home to the NC School of the Arts, isn't an easy place for street performers.

In recent years the growing popularity of downtown has attracted more street performers, or buskers, who are people who perform in public places for money.

Many cities have busking permits in place; others like Asheville and Charlotte don't require one and instead welcome street performers, believing they bring value, entertainment and culture to their downtowns.

Winston-Salem doesn't have a busking permit and instead street performers are required to obtain a number of permits.

"We throw permit after permit at buskers," said street musician Julian Robson, who thought his one panhandler permit was enough until some downtown residents of the Nissen Apartments complained of his music. "We don't have a permit that is just called a busker’s permit.”

The noise complaint against him led to police asking Robson to no longer play on the corner of Spruce and 4th Street until he obtains several more permits, including a foot peddler license and an open air permit, which would force him to perform away from the popular downtown area.

“I have a little bit of trouble understanding how [residents of the Nissen Apartments] can distinguish [my music] from the noise of Bulls Tavern or Recreation Billiards … and [their music is] amplified versus our unamplified sound,” Robson said.

City officials say a busker’s permit, which would simplify the process for street entertainers, has not been talked about. If city leaders want to pursue the permit it would require public meetings and hearings to allow business owners and downtown residents to weigh in.

19 comments

    • JT

      You know, you and I disagree about 99% of the time, but when a man is right, he’s right. Good call here–keep the arts in Winston!

  • marcie bouley

    Street performing add so much to the culture and charm of the city. It is such a shame that Winston Salem has such potential to be a real “city of the arts” and embrace creativity in all forms but time and time again kills the spirit because it continues to be buttoned up WAY too tight. Unfortunate!

  • nikki

    That’s the snobs in the Nissen building for you! So many of them move in there, which is in the center of it all, and think that its suppose to be quiet after 5??? There are a few in there that want to complain about everything! Get over it!

  • Mark Stabler

    Winston Salem can not decide what kind of city they want to be. First they want an active, interesting, welcoming downtown where people will come, eat, drink and spend their money. But wait, we don’t want any entertainment in the City of Arts. No noise, no fun, no nothing…just quiet. Make up your dang mind. All these d*** permits is why so many new businesses and industry look to other places to set up shop. If they have an interest in moving or expanding here, when they start the process with CIty Hall…it soon sends them looking for somewhere else to set up shop.

  • dajoy13

    I used to perform at 4th St Filling Station on Thursday nights on the patio, but would get complaints by 8:30 from surrounding apartments that we needed to turn it down or shut down. No way to turn down drums, so we just stopped playing after a few gigs. So performer friendly, this city is…

  • Amy

    obviously we need busker permits. i’m not too fond of these particular guys’ music and i loathe panhandlers, but street performers and the “city of the arts” go together like, well, the arts and art.

    and to those who move downtown and then complain about the vibrancy of downtown … please, just stop. (either complaining about or living downtown, i don’t care which, just stop).

  • Stacy

    As a city that only has 2 remaining music venues that can sustain a ‘pay for music’ customer-base still, why not welcome more performers in the streets within certain hours and with one simple permit?

  • Musician

    Nissen building residents get their way. I went to a concert on the roof of the Nissen by the pool that was approved by the building and residents committee. They STILL had cops come shut it down and kick everybody out once it got too loud for their taste.

  • noelchunter

    There need to be a few rules like a decibel limit, and a time of day limit, but as long as rules are followed, the public sidewalk should be free for anyone to sing or play

  • TNH

    Everyone in this page seems to be in agreement…arts, including live performance art in public spaces, is a positive thing and something we want for our city. So what is being done about it besides complaining here? What is the next step to move this in the right direction? Any suggestions?

    • David

      Push for a Buskers Permit. The ordinance allows for peaceful habitation which means each of us may complain individually about anything overly disturbing. Whether the garage band next door, the incessant dog barking for three days, or a loud domestic argument out in the front yard of a neighbors homes. The Police rarely can make a ruling, but simply inform someone that there has been a complaint and that you’re receiving tips and performing without a permit. Not having the latter is what let’s them tell you to move along.

      The noise ordinance is generally concerned with after 11pm and before 7am, and there’s leaway for that occasional party. We all understand giving some slack to that newly graduated kids who wants to enjoy the night. But the ordinance allows for any time that there is considered by a reasonable person that they are being disturbed by the noise. So anything could be fair game, including City Stage and restaurants, if you don’t have a permit.

  • ricflair

    I give money also to these guys everytime I am downtown. The cranks in the Neissen building should just get over it or move out. Secondly, why is the city pandering to a small amount of the city’s population? Using police resources? They pay the same amount of taxes we do right, but yet ” their ” noise ordinance is wholly enforced as if they did not chose to live where they do?

  • KleverFox

    Greensboro has had similar concerns regarding the DbSpl “noise ordinance” issues. Spoiled top guns and old money decide to live in places where they do not embrace the culture of the surrounding community. Just as the mayor in Greensboro sided with the commercial building of high end residences, WS must either follow suit or silence the moans of a few high dollar concerns. Hard to believe this ^ is a Fox forum; educated folks here.

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