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.

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