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Kansas City
124 Posts

Profile of Laird
The city I live in is presently reviewing a law to outlaw street performing. Evidently the language they use includes street performance in an attempt to outlaw panhandling.
If anyone can please direct me to where I might obtain some reference concerning this very issue it will be greatly appreciated. I'm in opposition to this, and will be doing a local radio interview, and might possibly a local TV news interview. As well as attending the city council meeting.
Again any help is welcomed.
It's never to late to have a happy childhold!
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Inner circle
1385 Posts

Profile of Chance is the best single place to start learning about the laws protecting our art and our lifestyle(s). Good luck.

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Inner circle
Agent of Chaos
3203 Posts

Profile of gaddy
Good luck with that. Your presence at any city council meetings might be a good start,as panhandlers are notoriously politically appathetic. A well mannered phone-call to your council member might help your case also. Petitions? A well developed plan to "regulate" street performance without high cost to the city? All the best, your diligence might just help scores of future performers...
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
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Special user
Kansas City
504 Posts

Profile of MagiUlysses
Greetings and Salutations Laird,

This is bad news, indeed, as I was hoping to come down and cut into some of your business this summer, figuring the Plaza and Westport ought to be able to support a couple of buskers..

I did a google on: St. Louis MO Street Performing Permit, and found the links I was looking for. Basically, anyone 18 and older can get a permit to perform in certain locations around the St. Louis area. The following is the web site wording of the ordinance, as it applies in St. Louis; :

"St. Louis City Revised Code Chapter 20.55

St. Louis City Revised Code (annotated) has been converted to electronic format by the staff of the St. Louis Public Library. This electronic version has been done for the interest and convenience of the user. These are unofficial versions and should be used as unofficial copies.

Official printed copies of St. Louis City Revised Code may be obtained from the Register's Office at the St. Louis City Hall.



Chapter 20.55

20.55.060Rules and regulations.
20.55.070Acceptance of contributions.
20.55.080Special events.

20.55.010 Definitions.

The following terms are defined for the purpose of this chapter as follows:

"Perform" includes, but is not limited to, the following activities: acting, singing, pantomime, juggling, magic, dancing and playing musical instruments, radios or other machines or devices for the producing or reproducing of sound.

"Performer" means an individual to whom a permit has been issued for the purpose of performing on the public area.

"Public area" means and includes any public sidewalk, alley, parkway, playgrounds or public right of way or easement located in any nonresidential dwelling district, as so designated in the zoning ordinance, within the City of St. Louis, except the 8th, 11th, 20th, 24th and 27th Wards, Metrolink transit platforms and stations operated by Bi-State Development Agency and any area in which performing is prohibited or otherwise regulated by law. (Ord. 64105 § 2, 1997.)

20.55.020 Permit--Required.

No person may perform in a public area without have obtained a permit issued under Section 20.55.030. (Ord. 64105 § 3, 1997.)

20.55.030 Permit--Conditions.

A. A permit shall be issued by the Director of Streets to each applicant therefor in exchange for a completed application and a fee of $25.00.

B. A completed application for a permit shall contain the applicant’s name, address, telephone number and type of performance and shall be signed by the applicant.

C. A permit shall be valid from the date on which it is issued through December 31 of the year in which it is issued.

D. The permit shall be numbered and contain the name of the applicant and the year in which it is issued.

E. A permit shall be nontransferable.

F. Upon issuing a permit, the Director of Streets shall also issue to the performer a printed copy of the ordinance codified in this chapter and a copy of any other ordinance, map or information pertaining to the existing prohibitions and regulations of performers within the city. (Ord. 64105 § 4, 1997.)

20.55.040 Permit--Display.

A performer shall carry and display a permit on said performers person at all times while performing in a public area. (Ord. 64105 § 5, 1997.)

20.55.050 Permit--Revocation.

The Director of Streets may revoke any permit issued under the terms of this chapter if the permit holder violates any provision of this chapter or any permit regulation. (Ord. 64105 § 10, 1997.)

20.55.060 Rules and regulations.

A. A performance may take place in any public area, but only between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and between 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

B. A performer may not block the passage of the public through a public area. If a sufficient crowd gathers to see or hear a performer such that the passage of the public through a public area is blocked a police officer may disperse that portion of the crowd that is blocking the passage of the public.

C. A performer may not perform in a public area so as to obstruct access to private property, except with the prior consent of the owner or manager of the property.

D. A performer may not use electric or electronic amplification except for devices powered only by self contained batteries. The conduct and behavior of all performers shall comply in all respects with existing noise ordinances.

E. No performer or group of performers shall perform at a distance of less than 50 feet from another performer or group of performers who are already performing. (Ord. 64105 § 6, 1997.)

20.55.070 Acceptance of contributions.

A. A performer may accept contributions of money or property at a performance. Contributions may be received in any receptacle. Performers may accept contributions in exchange for representations of their own work, however, no product may be offered at a fixed price with the exception of musical reproductions.

B. A performer who performs and accepts contributions under the provisions of this chapter shall not be guilty of aggressive begging under Section 15.44.010 (Revised Code) or of peace disturbance under Section 15.46.030 (Revised Code) unless it is determined by a police officer that such a performance is not in the spirit of entertainment but rather calculated to provoke a breach of the peace.

C. No other license is required for any activity permitted in this section. (Ord. 64105 § 7, 1997.)

20.55.080 Special events.

Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to apply to special events conducted by the City of St. Louis or to events conducted by permission of the City of St. Louis. (Ord. 64105 § 8, 1997.)

20.55.090 Violation--Penalty.

Any person who violates the provisions of this chapter, or who knowingly furnishes false information on the permit application, shall be subject to a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00. (Ord. 64105 § 9, 1997.)"

I thinking if you can print this off, or print off the St. Louis web page, or better yet, get them to send you a copy of their ordinance, it could be of use in KC.

Now, before anyone's head explodes over the regulation of street performers, or thinks that what I'm advocating, I'm thinking $25 to be a card-carrying, city-recognized street performer is cheaper than getting your props confiscated, spending some time in the local pokey, and spending money on an attorney. If anyone out there know an attorney who's willing to do some pro bono first amendment work, Laird would welcome the assistance.

Laird, I'm not going to be able to make the next SAM meeting as I've got an obligation at church, and living on the fringe of the metro doesn't give me much voice in the city, but if I can do anything to help, let me know. Like I said, I was hoping to be able to do some work later this summer, and this would put a serious crimp in my plans. I hope the St. Louis stuff will be of some use.

Joe Zeman aka
The Mage Ulysses
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Kansas City
504 Posts

Profile of MagiUlysses
Greetings and Salutations,

On a blog in the KC area was listed the e-mails of several council members, and this is the letter I sent to several members of the city council, including the sponsor of the bill, who responded with what looks like a form letter:

Greetings and Salutations,

"My name is Joe Zeman, and I take great issue with one certain section of the ordinance recently proposed that would outlaw street performing in the city, to wit: (ii) Where the person being solicited receives an item of little or no monetary value in exchange for a donation, under circumstances where a reasonable person would understand that the transaction is in substance a donation.

I do not want, nor do I accept donations. I work hard at providing a solid 15- to 20-minute, family-friendly show filled with laughs, wonder and inspiration. Not only is my show worth a dollar or two, or three, I believe it is worth much more.

Street performers have entertained on streets, in parks, on plazas and other areas where they could gather a crowd throughout history, and some of the U.S.'s most noted magicians, such as Harry Anderson, Jeff McBride and Penn & Teller got their starts performing on the streets.

I can well empathize with the city's desire to reduce or eliminate "aggressive" panhandling; however, this shotgun approach will only move the panhandlers to other areas of the city while eliminating the colorful sights, sounds and attraction that street performers bring to
areas such as Westport and The Plaza.

As I am a proponent of the first amendment and am loathe to suggest a permit system, there are several such systems in place, the nearest being in St. Louis. I would suggest that the council direct the city's legal department to investigate the St. Louis ordinance. As it has been in place for several years, it must pass muster with the state, and there should be no question as to its constitutionality.

I look forward to hearing that the ordinance, in its current form, has either been withdrawn or tabled for re-writing with an eye to encouraging performers to bring their vitality and entertainments to the city's high-visibility tourist areas.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Joe Zeman
Warrensburg, MO"

Today I received the following reply, which appears to be a form letter:

"Dear Constituency:

I am concerned about 3 basic things. One, I have sincere concerns about safety at street intersections. Second is my concern about how aggressive some panhandlers have been and how that could damage our new entertainment area or other areas, or lead to violence. We have invested too much to let that happen. Individuals have told me stories of three panhandlers following a person down the street at night to their grocery store or home. Third, over amplified music is unnecessary, does not create the atmosphere we want, the gas generators are dangerous on crowded streets, and the excessive noise could also drive people away from these areas.

It is interesting that an ordinance designed to deal with aggressive panhandling and safety issues has been converted by the press as some evil attempt to attack street performers. If you read the ordinance carefully, you will find that it focuses on panhandlers and safety.

The bill does not make street musicians the same as panhandlers. They are already considered such by the courts, and the ordinance just recognizes the courts position. It is unfortunate that the courts consider it arbitrary to treat street performers different than panhandlers. When I started to address serious panhandler issues, I was dismayed to find that anyone asking for money (actively or passively), including street performers could be impacted. However, since the courts take this position, we were better off including references to street performers in the ordinance so we can try to deal with the issue. That is one reason I made it clear that we wanted to take the time to consider the issues and possible solutions. The ordinance is just a starting point for discussion.

I have been trying to find legal solutions which would allow the performers but control some of the aggressive panhandling. I have been working with attorneys representing the areas of impact, and have asked them to research how we might address the street performer issue.

We have panhandlers at street intersections causing vehicles to swerve out of their lanes into other vehicles to miss the panhandlers stepping into the street. If we do nothing and someone is killed in an accident, we will be asked why we did nothing to prevent it. As I stated above, panhandlers have ganged up and followed people at night to the grocery store or back to their home. This should not happen. It is easy to say, let the person file a complaint but that is only reactive, and many times has not worked. It seemed better to define times (especially at night) and places when any panhandling was inappropriate.

Last fall I was eating dinner on the second floor deck at the Brio restaurant on the Plaza, and a street performer over a block away had amplified his music so loud our party could not hear each other talk. This is certainly unnecessary, and would not create the atmosphere anyone would favor. Business owners and pedestrians have rights which must be balanced along with the rights of the panhandlers, and street musicians. I knew it would not be an easy task, but true leadership is not about ignoring difficult issues. It is easy for the press to criticize, but much harder to try to find fair solutions to these difficult issues. I would not be much of a Councilman if I always took the easy path.

Believe me, I want the ambiance of street performers, as you do, but I also want to protect the public from those that abuse the panhandling situation for their own benefit. It is always the case that a few bad apples create issues for those who we like.

One possible solution to the street performer issue is to have the owner of the shopping/entertainment district provide a pool of funds for street performers during the non-panhandling hours. I have recently spoken to the some of the district owners' representatives about this idea. I asked them to discuss how the districts might essentially hire street performers (or rotate them by groups) as a possible solution during the non-panhandling times. Hopefully with continued discussion we can save the good and lose the bad.

Testimony will be taken during the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee hearings that are held on Wednesdays on the 26th Floor of City Hall at 2:00pm. All innovative suggestions towards a reasonable solution are welcome.


John Fairfield
City Councilman 2nd District-In-District"

Councilman Fairfield is the sponsor of the proposed ordinance, and is, coincidentally or not, running for Mayor.

My query is to all those out there performing, how do the cities you work in split this hair. I know nobody likes or wants permits, but if your city has them, have they held up in court? If a similar ordinance got tossed by the courts in your area, if you can't site the case, can you tell us what city and what year the action took place.

Listen, I don't do the streets, but I'd like to have the option open to me and keep it open to all those who perform in and around KC. The city does not have a lot of places to perform, and the places and times that these restrictions would cover would bring street performing to a grinding halt as it covers every area in the city worth setting up a pitch.

Any words of advise would be greatly appreciated.


Joe Zeman aka
The Mage Ulysses
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Elite user
445 Posts

Profile of BAH1313
Hey Joe,

The bottom line is the Council will do what they feel is "right" for themselves and to be re-elected. many times, their decisions are based on their own experiences and that of the people "complaining".
The funny thing is, if they want to impose a "anti-panhandling" ordinance, then they HAVE TO GIVE A PERMIT in some shape or fashion to allow it and street performing in some way shape or form. They CANNOT hinder your right to free speech. It's your Firs Amendment right!
Sadly, many times, these fights are only won AFTER they have been started or someone has been arrested.
I encourage you to contact
Do not let ANYONE deny your rights!
I am truly blessed to have a job where people are laughing all the time and everyone believes in magic....Come to think of it, I'm blessed to even have a job.
KV Magic
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New user
58 Posts

Profile of KV Magic

This comes as potentially bad news to me as I was planning on performing this summer at the Plaza. I was going to pass on the same info that MagiUlysses did, about the St. Louis ordinance, but he beat me to it.

Please keep us posted on how it goes! If I can help by writing a letter, etc., please let me know. I do not live in the KC area, but in Northeast MO. But I will help where I can.

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