A licence to carry a tune?
City considering whether buskers should have to pay to play
April 23, 2010
City hall is exploring whether Hamilton's buskers should be licensed.
Consideration of a licensing category for buskers is part of an overall review of city licensing categories. A staff report is expected in June.
The news comes on the heels of two buskers being ticketed by police for allegedly violating the provincial Safe Streets Act. A busking protest against the actions is scheduled for today.
Vince Ormond, superintendent of municipal law enforcement, licensing and permits with the city, said the exploration is not linked to the police actions.
"It's premature to say whether or not we will be licensing them, but we will be looking at whether or not there's any value in considering that category for licenses," he said.
Buskers do need licences in some municipalities. Permits are required to perform on city sidewalks in Toronto and performers must audition for a coveted spot along the TTC subway.
Ormond said the city looks at factors such as health and safety or public nuisance issues when determining the need for licensing. He said there have been complaints about street performers "from time to time" but not many. Details about licensing would be worked out if it moved forward, he said.
Dave Kens, assistant manager of the LCBO on Dundurn Street South, said there are customer complaints about buskers outside the store. There are also panhandlers and he said the majority of complaints are about customers being harassed -- whether by a panhandler or busker.
"It's like half the people don't mind and half take issue with it," he said.
Albert Barubek, 38, who was a longtime city busker before hanging it up a couple of years ago, feels any kind of art enhances the community. Licensing, in his interpretation of it, would help with things such as territory infringement.
Vicente Carbonel, 40, who plays the pan flute with a backup sound system in Gore Park at least once a week, wouldn't mind being licensed. He travels from Toronto, where he has a licence, to perform in various cities.
Catherine Martin, corporate communicator for Hamilton police, said figures on how many buskers have been ticketed were not available yesterday, as compiling the information would be resource intensive. Police apply the law evenly, she said.
"Every situation certainly that they face is different (and) will be surrounded with different sets of circumstances," she said. "However, Hamilton police will enforce the law."
Hamiltonian Rick Davies said he would be fine without some of the buskers in the city, though he complimented Carbonel's abilities. He finds it irritating when performers play the same thing over and over.
Bernadette Williams, who is downtown every day, has no problem with the performers but said they should be licensed if that's their profession.
Musicians will hold a protest against the recent charges today from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on James Street North.