Street Performers Want Clarity On Law Banning Some Performances

Posted at 10:52 PM, Dec 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-05 23:52:23-05

In the latest chapter in a battle pitting public safety against free speech, a mid-state street musician was given a ticket for performing on Lower Broadway, even before playing a note.

Street performers like Hillary Klug said Nashville's ordinance banning certain street performances isn't being enforced fairly.

She said she performs well out of the way of people on the sidewalk, but back in September, she was cited for performing within 15 feet of a loading zone, without ever playing anything on her fiddle. 

Hillary recorded the encounter with police who said, even though they didn't see her play the violin that time, they could still cite her because while she had her fiddle out, it was reasonable to believe she would be playing it shortly.

In response to Hillary's concerns, the mayor's office said, "Musicians, such as acoustic guitar or violin players, should not be impacted [by the street performer ordinance] if they are not obstructing foot traffic or violating the noise ordinance."

Hillary said she paid the fines this week, even though she says she plans to continue street performances on lower Broadway.

Metro also released the following:

Metro Nashville has undertaken a number of steps to improve mobility in the lower-Broadway area to ensure pedestrian safety and access with the growth of tourism in the area. There are no new ordinances involved; Metro is simply enforcing existing rules which have been on the books for a number of years. That enforcement includes asking businesses to remove sandwich boards which act as obstructions to the public right-of-way, as well as some musicians who have been unlawfully setting up amplified or obstructive music equipment. Musicians, such as acoustic guitar or violin players, should not be impacted if they are not obstructing foot traffic or violating the noise ordinance due to excessive volume or amplification of sound.   
While we regret if any musicians are negatively impacted by the proper enforcement of existing laws and codes, public safety is our first and overriding concern in Metro Government. We hope that those musicians who are asked to move from the area are able to find work in some of the many live-music establishments in the downtown neighborhood or beyond.

The Mayor’s Office worked with Ms. Klug to try and find a solution for her issues with being cited for obstructions and/or use of amplification. Solutions included find alternative permitted locations outside of the footprint of Lower Broadway, which experiences high volumes of pedestrian congestion, and working with private entities to allow her to use space outside of the public right-of-way to perform.