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New potential regulations for street performers

Posted at 9:00 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 12:14:13-04

TULSA -- Street performing is actually illegal in Tulsa, but the city council is working to regulate it.

Saxophone player James Johnson said, “I think this is an overwhelming victory for street performers just to even have this in the books.”

City Councilor Blake Ewing says he was surprised to find out that it’s illegal for one to do any other sort of public performances on the sidewalks inside the city of Tulsa, according to Sec. 1205 of Chapter 12 in the city's code of ordinances.

That also came as a surprise to Tulsa Street Drummer Jascha Tobias who said, “I had no idea it was considered illegal. I’ve had officers give me money. I’ve had officers take videos and pictures with me.”

That’s why the council is discussing ways to make it legal. But with any law comes regulations.

Ewing said during a committee meeting Wednesday afternoon, “If somebody’s got a music festival or something going on, yes, you can perform on the sidewalk just far enough away from the festival that it doesn’t appear that you’re a part of it.”

The city council is also discussing what times buskers are allowed to perform.

Ewing explained, “There’s plenty of occasions where 10 p.m. is just about the time the fun starts downtown, so I would recommend that it would at least coincide with the city’s noise ordinance and stretch that timeframe to be maybe midnight.”

Another big factor is how far from the entrance of a business or cross walk a street performer can be. The council suggested ten feet from any spots where large number of people gather, including bus stops. Tobias, who’s been a Tulsa street performing for 10 years, said that’s doable.

But with a $1,200 suggested fine for violating these potential new laws, some councilors think that number should come down.

Tobias said, “$1,200 is ridiculous, especially for just a street performer, man. That’s a lot of money for anybody to come up with for any kind of ticket.”

Once the council irons out the details, the new street performer ordinance will be a win-win.

Ewing said, “I believe that Tulsa is an eclectic, creative, vibrant community and we have many ways of showcasing that. One of those ways is by allowing our creative citizens to express themselves.”

Tobias added, “I’m just glad that they’re recognizing that and recognizing that we do need something to happen for people like me. We’re performers.”

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