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Ocean City boardwalk musicians fall flat after city council votes to restrict performances

By Ryan Hughes, Tom Gardiner

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    PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (KYW) — They’re known as buskers or boardwalk performers. If you are a frequent visitor, you’ve likely heard them down the shore playing different instruments. But now, they’re banned on parts of the Ocean City Boardwalk.

For eight years Marie Saks-Wilner has been playing her flute on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

“This is honestly the most fun that I’ve ever had playing music,” Saks-Wilner said.

Her notes are still sharp but her feelings have fallen flat after the city council voted to restrict boardwalk performers on where and when they can play.

“Right now, I feel we’ve had a lot taken away from us, but we still want to do this,” she said.

As Bryan Woolbert belts out classics and shares his piano playing, he says it’s not about the tips and money, but the experience and adding to the atmosphere down the shore.

“For me, the best feeling is getting to interact with the community here,” Woolbert said.

But it’s the business community that has been arguing the boardwalk performers are impacting their bottom line.

“When you only have 60 days to make a living, everyday kinda counts,” Wes Kazmarck said.

Kazmarck is the president of the Boardwalk Merchants Association in Ocean City.

He says the music has become a nuisance and at times, prevents customers from coming in the door.

“The main issue is that it really kills the environment or the atmosphere we’re trying to create in our stores,” Kazmarck said.

On Thursday, city council agreed and voted unanimously on an ordinance, which will now raise the permit fee for the boardwalk performers from $50 to $200.

And the musicians will no longer be able to play between 9th and 12th streets – the busier part of the boardwalk.

“The restrictions are going to affect things a little bit. They’re certainly not going to affect my performances,” Bryan said.

Another restriction is that the performers will only be allowed to play music from 7-10:00 p.m.

The new rules go into effect between May 1 and the end of October.

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