Ocean City Council limits street performances on boardwalk, raises fee to $200

“Boardwalk entertainers” will only be permitted to perform within two “designated entertainment zones” between May 1 and October 31.

The boardwalk at Ocean City, N.J. May 30, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The boardwalk at Ocean City, N.J. May 30, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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Street performers on the Ocean City Boardwalk will only be allowed to perform in certain locations on certain days following a unanimous ruling by the City Council last week.

According to Ordinance No. 24-01, “boardwalk entertainers” can only perform within two “designated entertainment zones” between May 1 and October 31. The first zone is located between 5th and 8th streets, and the second is between 12th and 14th streets.

Performances are only allowed from 7-10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The curfew can be extended for “Special Events,” such as Family Night and Mummers Night.

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The ordinance, which passed unanimously during a council meeting on January 25, says the boardwalk is an “invaluable social, economic, recreational, and aesthetic resource which requires the attention of the City of Ocean City to maintain its character.”

Councilmember Jody Levchuk said while he “respects” the entertainment on the boardwalk, he described it as “disruptive.”

“It’s disruptive to employees who work in many of the stores,” Levchuk said. “Many of which say they want to go home because they’re having a panic attack because they’re hearing one set of music in the store, and then they’re hearing all the music coming into the stores that are overpowering the conversations and everything else.”

The fee for entertainers to apply for a license to perform on the boardwalk is $200, which Marie Sacks-Wilner, known to many on the boardwalk as the “Flute Lady,” called “a bit steep.”

During the meeting, she said she and her peers are looking to keep the music going in Ocean City.

“Are we a perfect lot? Not by a long shot,” Sacks-Wilner said. “Do we have drama surrounding us? Well, I don’t think it would be an Ocean City summer without some. But we do have one common bond, and that’s the love of performing. Seeing the crowd interacting with them on a warm summer night watching their children and grandchildren dance like nobody’s watching.”

The ordinance states performances should be appropriate for a “general audience.” Profanity and nudity are not permitted. Also, performances involving animals, paints, markers, pencils, charcoal, fire, drums, balloons or crayons are not permitted.

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Levchuk opened a JiLLy’s Stores location on the Ocean City Boardwalk and is involved with the Boardwalk Merchants Association. He said the council’s decision is working toward “cleaning up” the area’s entertainment.

“What we’re doing is really helping out the overall dynamic and atmosphere of the boardwalk by not allowing it and the potential of what negatively could happen,” Levchuk said. “If we really kept that program going the way it was, I don’t think any of us in this room would be happy with the outcome, so I think we’re preventing a lot of issues as well that could come about.”

According to the regulations, performers’ badges displaying licenses must be worn while performing. Music performed also cannot be heard 30 feet away from the boardwalk railing. Sharp weapons or objects are not permitted for usage, with the lone exception being for sword swallowers.

Last May, Ocean City began closing its beaches at 8 p.m. due to an uptick in crime over Memorial Day Weekend.

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