Street Performers Are Welcome In Douglas As City Council Institutes New Ordinance
Sparked by events in the City of Saugatuck that culminated in the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) crying foul over violations of constitutional rights and legally forcing the city to pay $7,000 to each of two young street performers, the City of Douglas instituted an ordinance allowing for the activity.
The Douglas City Council passed the new regulation at its Monday night meeting.
“We hope to attract street performers to the city,” said Saugatuck City Manager William LeFevere.
That statement echoes the sentiment the city council has expressed now for more than a year, saying street performers will enhance the charm of their city and draw shoppers to downtown stores.
Among other rules, the ordinance limits street performances to Center Street, within the downtown district, and requires a permit that is to be approved by city staff.
It also prohibits performers within 10 feet of any entrance of any business.
The Douglas regulation is a copy of the City of Holland’s.
That city is host to the Street Performer Series every Thursday evenings during the summer, June through August. The event has been very popular with locals, visitors and merchants, according to area locals.
“We don’t see the City of Holland being pursued by the ACLU,” said LeFevere.
This past spring the ACLU and Saugatuck signed a legal agreement stipulating the city will not enforce its public entertainment ordinance which barred street performers.
Acting on behalf of two college students of music that were barred from playing their instruments (guitar and viola) on Saugatuck’s downtown sidewalks, with one of them being arrested and jailed for a weekend, the ACLU won the argument before the U.S. District Court stating the act of street performance was protected under the First Amendment.
Following that legal loss, Saugatuck officials proposed a new ordinance regulating street performers, citing a need to mitigate potential negative impacts of street performers during the summer time—e.g, pedestrian and vehicular traffic congestion and obstructing emergency services.
Not so fast, said many local merchants—they wanted Saugatuck officials to postpone any new regulation until the business community could provide ample input on the matter.
Saugatuck officials heeded the advice and the issue is currently being discussed with the Saugatuck-Douglas Area Business Association (SDABA) along with plans to gauge the pulse of all businesses by means of a survey.