OCEAN CITY, N.J. - Ocean City officials are considering whether to regulate so-called street performers on the boardwalk after merchants complained about crowds and noise.
An ordinance that was introduced by the City Council on Dec. 8 - but died on a second reading Thursday night - was modeled after a similar one in Atlantic City and was denounced by members of the public who complained it was too heavy-handed.
It was the third time the city has attempted - and failed - to approve such an ordinance in the last five years.
"The idea is not to discourage a young Joan Baez or Bob Dylan, but to regulate the performances in such a way that is fair to everyone," Doug Bergen, a spokesman for the city, said Friday.
The proposed ordinance required adult performers to undergo fingerprinting and criminal background checks before obtaining a performer's license. If an applicant had a criminal history of "dishonesty" or had been convicted of a fourth-degree crime or higher, he or she could have been denied a license.
Underage performers would not have had to undergo fingerprinting, but their parents or guardians would have been required to submit to fingerprinting and criminal background checks.
The ordinance also would have required performers to pay a $50 licensing fee and a $25 administrative fee before getting approval to play an instrument, draw pictures, sing, or offer any other performances on the boardwalk. The ordinance also proposed restricting performers to a less trafficked area of the 2.5-mile boardwalk, away from the shops and amusements.
Bergen said that such performances are "not a huge problem," but that some merchants said crowds that gather around become so large and noisy that they interfere with customers wishing to enter or exit their shops.
Others expressed concern that some of the performers were "trying to make a living" via an unregulated means by posting signs indicating a charge for their services, such as posting a $5 fee for a caricature drawing or showing up with amplifiers, Bergen said.
Mayor Jay Gillian, who noted that the ordinance presented this week was "harsh," told Ocnjdaily.com that the city doesn't "have to be over-government. But we have to have some control."
Bergen said he expects that a new ordinance will be crafted and offered by the city sometime in the spring, after officials meet with both sides, including merchants and street performers, to reach "some sort of compromise that works for everyone."