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City Has Chokehold On Santa Cruz Street Performers, They Say

By Jake Reiner, Reporter, JakeReiner@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Feb 23 2014 09:24:14 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 24 2014 01:50:25 AM CST

Street Performers Restricted in Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

Longtime street performer Scott Neely strummed into Downtown Santa Cruz Saturday and already he's feeling the effects.

Within minutes I was approached by an officer and was told that I couldn't be there and I busk all over the country," Neely said.

"Busk," or the act of "busking" is a term Neely uses for street performers who play for money. But Neely says there is a lack of busking territory downtown.

"We're giving the gift of music and if people feel so inclined to tip us why should we be restricted?" Neely said.

The rules are cut and dry. Each square on the sidewalks is 2 by 2 feet. If you play for money you must be seven squares or 14 feet away from store fronts, trash cans and benches to name a few places.

The limited playing field ousted "The Great Morgani," a colorful accordion player, who left town last weekend because police approached him for playing in an area not zoned for street performers.

"We can't say 'this is our favorite performer,' that performer can perform anywhere but you guys have to abide by a different set of rules," said City Councilwoman Cynthia Mathews.

Mathews says she welcomes street performers but the rules are in place because merchants didn't want buskers to impede their businesses. But not all feel the same way.

"I think if they discourage people from performing then they are too harsh," said Kristen Kovaletz, a clothing store employee.

If a street performer violates the rules, the ticket costs roughly $100, police said.