Regulate street performance hot spots in downtown Asheville, city staffers suggest

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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buskers_asheville_march_2015Three Asheville City Council members heard a proposal from city staffers Monday afternoon that would impose new regulations on street performers in downtown Asheville. Proposed regulations have been discussed for more than a year as Asheville’s popularity as a tourist destination has soared and city streets have filled with visitors, as well as those street performers and musicians looking to entertain them.

Council’s Public Safety Committee, comprised of Councilmen Jan Davis, Cecil Bothwell and Chris Pelly, heard a presentation from city attorneys, staffers and police officers during an afternoon committee meeting. The downtown training room was packed with street performers who complained that they weren’t properly notified of the proposed new rules. Most of those who spoke also took issue with the proposed regulations, stating that they would hurt their ability to make money performing for passersby.

The city proposal came in the form of a pilot program that would regulate three downtown hot spots where street performers play regularly, as well as suggestions for updating city ordinances.

The pilot project: One performer would be allowed in each of these areas for a designated period of time, such as one or two hours. The performer would be required to stay within a specific marked area of a few square feet, and no other performer will be allowed within 100 feet:

Haywood Street in front of Woolworth Walk
Due to the high volume of crowds, outdoor dining and multiple crosswalks, staff is proposing
this area be limited to a performance that includes no more than one individual performer
within an area measuring 3 x 4 feet. This could be located either next to the building or
nearer the street by the street tree. No other performers would be allowed within 100 feet of
this space (in all directions), which would not impact other nearby spots that are favored by
street performers.

Flat Iron at Battery Park Avenue and Wall Street
On the flat side of the Flat Iron sculpture, staff is proposing a space approximately 5 x 6 feet
to ensure that there is 6 feet of sidewalk passage on all sides. No other performers would
be allowed within 110 feet of this space (in all directions). This designated space, which is
100 feet or more from the Woolworth Walk location, would impact the southwest corner of
Wall Street/ Battery Park.

Pack Square near Rhubarb restaurant
Due to the high volume of pedestrian traffic, outdoor dining, two crosswalks and a pushcart
adjacent to where street performances typically occur, staff is proposing the designation of
an area areas adjacent to the Biltmore Avenue curb that is 4 x 8 feet. No other performers
would be allowed within 100 feet of this space (in all directions), which would not impact
other adjacent areas on the east side Biltmore Avenue in the Pack Square area.

Ordinance updates include the following:

-All performers and equipment must remain inside the designated performance space.

-Require street performers to stop their performances if onlookers that have stopped to listen are spilling into city streets.

-Performances involving the use of knives, swords, torches, axes, saws, fire or other potentially dangerous objects, or that involve acrobatics, tumbling or other inherently dangerous activities would be prohibited.

David Forbes of The Asheville Blade created a Storify of today’s Asheville busking regulations discussion.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Deborah Smith September 10, 2015

    Really sorry to see Asheville changing so much. Have been visiting regularly for thirty years. A lot of the unique and eccentric sites are getting upscaled to look just like any other franchise-friendly city. Tupelo Honey has turned into a fern bar. The harmless, friendly and very colorful street people, including buskers, are being boxed in or driven out. There are more and more panhandlers and aggressive bums. On our last visit we watched a gang of 30-somethings that resembled a Max Max cast. When they crowded into the street a driver honked at them. One of the gang chased the car down in crowded traffic, screamed and flipped the finger at the trapped driver. There are crowds of college-age thugs who act menacing and boldly talk trash to pedestrians. Giant hotels are destroying the ambiance of the historic buildings. The River Arts District is going to become a boutique-ish theme park soon. West Asheville is where the cool stuff is, now. I have always loved Asheville, but after our latest visit we feel burned out on the city.

  2. Jared Rutledge August 26, 2015

    Frankly, as an Appalachian native, I resent the appropriation of my mountain culture and heritage by Florida crust punks.

    1. North Asheville Neighbor September 1, 2015

      Thank you.

    2. cwaster September 5, 2015

      Maybe “Shall bathe and not stink like a rotten possum” should be added…

  3. Josie August 25, 2015

    Could we get rid of the Pub Cycle instead?

    1. Big Al September 6, 2015

      As irritating as the Pub Cycle can be, at least it moves on and does not beg for cash or attempt to shame or intimidate those who refuse.

      Also, there is no confusing the Pub Cycle for a bum. The same cannot be said for a growing percentile of Asheville’s “buskers”.

  4. Sarah August 25, 2015

    We need to start regulating buskers. It’s done in Paris, Rome, London, and New York. And those are all considered places with great street performers. We can’t just let anyone camp out on a sidewalk in front of a business because they think it’s their right. It’s not. Get good at your craft and get hired to play or perform in one of Asheville’s dozens of fantastic restaurants or theaters. And yes … city leaders need to take the lead on this. Enact a law and enforce it!

  5. Michael Hopping August 25, 2015

    It’s a scary thing to agree with Tim Peck, but there it is. I hope Council sends a few staffers out to juggle flaming chainsaws. Asheville is the Cesspool of Sin, remember? not yet another Tidy Bowl.

  6. Murphy August 25, 2015

    Why doesn’t the city focus some attention on the folks who regularly beg for money in the “tourist district”…

    there is a guy who is always laying on the sidewalk in front of the old Hannah Flannagans and berates those who do not “contribute” to his “tip” jar…

  7. Harry August 25, 2015

    More government intrusion into our lives. They (govt. officials) will always come after something that YOU like and support too. These regulations are ridiculous. Be careful how you vote.

    1. Mike August 25, 2015

      Yes, these are great examples of government intrusion, fight on… (eye roll and sarcasm)

      To be in a society or not to be, that is the question….

      1. Harry August 25, 2015

        Little by little, inch by inch, stealing your rights is such a cinch.

  8. Elvis Presley Costello August 24, 2015

    no more axes, saws, fires or chains, Mannn.

    1. Barry Summers August 26, 2015

      Loaded firearms still seem to be OK. Is this a great country or what?

      1. Tim Peck August 31, 2015

        Another ridiculous comment that has nothing to do with the topic.

        “Is this a great country or what?”

        Name another you’d like migrate to. Preferably one that has no constitutionally-protected rights.

        Can we crowdfund this jackass onto a airplane?

  9. Murphy August 24, 2015

    So if a crowd forms, because the act is good enough to attract a crowd, then the act must cease to perform… what a great idea.

    1. Mike August 25, 2015

      Um, Only if they are spilling into the street.

      1. Tim Peck August 31, 2015

        It’s already illegal to impede traffic.

  10. Tim Peck August 24, 2015

    Buskers to city council: “F_u_c_k your damn regulations.”

  11. Tim Peck August 24, 2015

    Buskers to city council: “Fuck your damn regulations.”


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