Business Pensacola

DIB releases guidelines for street performers (update)

April 5, 2017

Pensacola’s Downtown Improvement Board (DIB) today announced it is working to create guidelines that will “preserve the authenticity of what street performances represent” within the DIB’s 44-block district. The pilot program, modeled after successful programs in San Antonio, Asheville, NC, Las Vegas and Charleston, SC, will establish guidelines for street performing—also known as busking—to encourage artistic expression at downtown sidewalks, plazas and parks while protecting the rights of visitors, businesses and performers.

Curt Morse, DIB executive director, says that street performers add to downtown Pensacola’s unique character and that artistic performances on downtown sidewalks are a vital and welcome part of its culture. But, he adds, “it’s important not to confuse street performers with panhandlers. In my experience, buskers don’t like to be referred to as ‘panhandlers’ and most downtown Pensacola performers aren’t homeless. They perform because they love the art.”

In developing the guidelines, Morse has consulted with downtown street performers, downtown businesses and those active in the homeless community to gather input. The DIB staff will be finalizing the new guidelines over the next week and requesting community input before finalizing a plan.

Here is a follow up email we received from DIB late yesterday afternoon:

These regulations help maintain the vibrant atmosphere of downtown while protecting the rights of pedestrians, businesses, and performers.

Artistic performances on the city sidewalks are a vital and welcome part of Pensacola’s unique character and culture.

Street performances are distinguished from panhandling activities by the commercial nature of the performer’s actions which provide the benefit of a live performance of artistic value in exchange for gratuities given in appreciation of the performance.

Persons have a right to perform on public property, but those performers can cause adverse impacts to the community in the form of gathering crowds attracted to the entertainment offered in locations where there is insufficient room for crowds; blocked sidewalks; blocked ingress and egress of buildings; the risk of disruptive nearby motor vehicles traffic; and/or disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of residence and businesses.

Such adverse impacts can be mitigated or alleviated through minimally intrusive regulation of time, place and/or manner in which such performances may occur. These regulations ensure the ability of street performers to perform in public spaces and promotes harmony among street performers, local businesses, permitted event sponsors and residents and visitors by balancing the interests of performing artists with the public’s safety.

Performers may utilize sidewalks subject to the following guidelines:
 Not violate the prohibitions set forth in the County Noise Abatement Ordinance.
 Not obstruct or cause to be obstructed pedestrian or vehicular traffic, sidewalks, doorways, or other access areas.
 Performers must provide a minimum of six feet for pedestrian passageway.
 Not sell, display or exhibit any tangible good, on any sidewalk, in exchange for a fixed price or donation.
 Perform only at times between the hours of 10am and 10pm.
 Not consume or be under the influence of alcoholic beverages or other controlled substances while performing.
 Performances involving the use of knives, swords, torches, axes, saws (except non-powered saws used solely as musical instruments), fire, or other potentially dangerous objects or that involve acrobatics, tumbling, or other inherently dangerous activities are prohibited.
 Performances are not to take place any closer than 40 feet from another performer with additional regulations within two designated High Impact Areas.

PERFORMANCE AREAS: Several locations (TBD) have been identified as Performance Areas. These are high impact areas located within the Downtown Visitors’ District. Only one audible performance may take place on a sidewalk at a single time within 120 feet of the location marked on the sidewalk for busking. Non-audible performances must be a minimum of 40 feet from an audible performance in the High Impact Area.

Performances must not take place at locations designated for a community event or festival, unless permitted to play by the event or festival organizer or coordinator.

Performances must comply with all applicable federal state, and local laws.

The Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board is working to make busking a sustainable and fun part of downtown life in Pensacola. Here is our Guide To The Local Etiquette.

1. We take two hour turns. Two hours from when you first set up, not from when someone’s waiting on you. This gives everyone a chance to share peak times. If you want to busk all day, be prepared to change locations. Be prepared to wait your turn.

2. Watch your crowd size! Make sure folks can get by and that if they aren’t spilling into the street. Be especially mindful of crosswalks. You must have six feet of sidewalk space for pedestrians to go by.

3. Keep your amps turned down and the drum kits baffles. You’re working with other performers and businesses nearby, be reasonable and play only to “your area.” If your volume prevents others from performing nearby, you’re too loud.

4. Introduce yourself to the businesses you’re performing near and to other buskers on the street. Getting to know your busking neighbors creates a great musical community!

5. Keep your footprint small. Bring only the instruments your need for your performance. Pick up your trash, not step on plants, and leave your spot cleaner than you found it.

6. The most common complaints received are performances that are too loud, playing repetitive songs, and clearly not having talent enough to draw a small crowd. During the day, be mindful of office workers. At night, be mindful of residents.

7. Pensacola loves its buskers! Remember that you represent not just yourself, but all buskers in Pensacola. Leave everyone with a good memory. Have fun, and be a good neighbor.


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  • CJ Lewis April 6, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    The Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board (DIB) brags on its website that it is an “independent state agency.” In truth, the DIB is “not” independent, not part of the state government and not an agency. Instead, under state law, it is a “dependent special district” of the City of Pensacola just like the city’s Pensacola Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The key difference is that the CRA was created by city ordinance and the DIB by a special act of the Florida Legislature. The DIB long ago achieved its legislative purpose but that is a separate issue. The DIB gets its limited authority from what is called the “DIB Act.” The DIB exercises very limited “municipal” powers to perform certain times of municipal functions related to its purpose. Because the 2009-2011 City Council led by Mayor Wiggins failed to review the DIB Act to ask the Florida Legislature to confirm it to the new City Charter, there is lingering confusion about the process of making appointments to the board. Under the new City Charter, both the Council President and the Mayor have each made appointments. Interestingly, Mayor Hayward has refused to direct the appointment of a person on the city’s planning staff to the DIB presumably not wanting to shine a spotlight on the fact that he is supposed to ensure the appointment is made like the City Manager he replaced. Doing so would verify that the power to appoint DIB members is vested in the Council President who assumed most of the old Mayor’s powers and not in the Mayor who mostly replaced the City Manager. Other than routine matters, much of what the DIB wants to do requires approval of the City Council, as it says right in the DIB Act. The City Council is the only body that can approve the DIB budget, the DIB cannot do it and neither can the Mayor, and the City Council can remove DIB members from office, something the DIB and the Mayor cannot do. At its root, the so-called “regulations” described in the document have no legal effect and seem only advisory to include because the DIB Act gives the DIB no power to regulate the private conduct of citizens in public rights-of-way to include city sidewalks. This document is largely copied from one put out by the Ashville Downtown Commission, a legislative advisory body created by the Asheville City Council and supported by city staff. The Asheville document expressly references that city’s Noise Ordinance and its two Solicitation Ordinances and two so-called “High Impact Areas,” both described by ordinance in the Asheville Municipal Code. This document has probably never been show to the city government. As example, the DIB document references the “County Noise Abatement Ordinance” that does not apply and has no legal effect inside city limits. The city has its own noise ordinance. The DIB also document hints at “additional regulations within two designated High Impact Areas” but does not describe those regulations or the geographic boundaries of the areas. In sum, the DIB document seems mostly to be a bad cut & paste hatchet job by someone unfamiliar with the roles of the city and DIB. It is every bit as bad as the botched ordinance spun up by the DIB last month trying to outlaw the 1st Amendment within part of Downtown Pensacola. Most importantly, who does the DIB think is going to enforce these regulations? The Pensacola Police Department hardly seems to enforce the city’s existing Panhandling Ordinance and has its hands full dealing with the highest per capita crime rate in Northwest Florida helping to spark the building boom in Santa Rosa County. This seems like a policy in search of a problem. The real problem in Downtown Pensacola, specifically along Palafox Place, are a few aggressive panhandlers. This is a very limited DIB problem not a citywide issue. The solution is for the DIB to hire “off-duty” PPD Officers to patrol Palafox Place on foot on days and times when business owners seem to be having problems with aggressive panhandlers.

  • raul garcia April 5, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Does the DIB have authority to create and act on these guidelines?