Cherokee Street Promotes Busking as Good For the Neighborhood

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

Jamaica Ray busks in front of Crown Candy Kitchen in St. Louis. PHOTO by Kelly Umphenour

Calling all buskers! Cherokee Street wants you–and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. In an effort to entice street-performers to bring their acts to the avant-garde neighborhood–and to protest against new busking regulations that were proposed by the city—the local business association has made a standing offer of $50 to the first 10 buskers who post a picture of themselves performing and holding their city buskers license on the Cherokee Street News Facebook page.

Cherokee Street—home to artists, art galleries, antique shops, authentic Mexican food and free-thinkers—goes with buskers like mimes go withwhite face. Anne McCullough, Cherokee Street Liaison of the Cherokee Station Business Association, says buskers provide “entertainment on the street and create a welcoming environment.” The offer was initiated as a protest against new busking regulations proposed by the city that would raise the license fee from $25 to $100, require an audition and allow aldermen to restrict certain areas. Cherokee Street didn’t want to get stuck in that invisible box. “It’s restrictive,” McCullough says. “It’s against freedom of speech.”

That was the position taken by the ACLU when they filed suit against the city on behalf of buskers. US District Judge Catherine D. Perry placed a cap of $50 for an individual permit until a July 12 hearing, and it was the CSBA’s hope to encourage buskers to get their license, come and busk on Cherokee Street, and potentially be reimbursed. Ironically, the mayor’s office isn’t actually against street entertainers. “We welcome buskers,” said Maggie Crane, Press Secretary to Mayor Slay. “They’re a vibrant part of city life, but there has to be a balance.”

Crane said the bruhaha arose due to several instances of people playing instruments in residential areas as late as one or two in the morning, and someone—a police officer or someone from the street department—would have to be sent out to tell them to stop. How would the city be reimbursed for that?

Fortunately, an agreement has been reachedand the lawsuit dropped. The result is that a one-year buskers license will cost $75—not $100 as proposed—and auditions will no longer be required (though they weren’t auditions as people normally think of them, but rather a musician volunteer verifying that the busker had more than just one song they could play.)

So buskers, grab your instruments, magic tricks, mime clothes or whatever it is that you do and get busking. Hurry down to Cherokee Street and you still might get $50 from the CBSA. For more information, visit the Cherokee Street News Facebook page.

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