By Maddy Vitale
City Council is putting a hush on Boardwalk entertainers with an ordinance to eliminate amplifiers.
The ordinance was approved on first reading Thursday and will be up for public comment and a final vote at a Council meeting March 14.
“This change is simply to prohibit amplification because of the feedback we got from the public and the merchants,” City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson told Council during Thursday’s meeting.
She said while business owners say overall that the entertainers are fine, at times they become too loud.
“Sometimes the music overpowers and even goes into the stores,” McCrosson said.
Council President Peter Madden called the amended ordinance a win-win because it still allows entertainers to perform, but it puts limits on the volume.
“We pass ordinances and we tweak them as needed,” Madden explained. “Business owners came to us for a concern over the sound from the Boardwalk entertainment.”
President of the Boardwalk Merchants Association Wes Kazmarck said the ordinance is a good middle ground.
“Boardwalk merchants welcome the street performers. Eliminating amplifiers only ensures that Boardwalk storeowners and their businesses are able to maintain the atmosphere they desire within their stores,” Kazmarck said. “Amplifiers directed into their stores were interfering with that atmosphere.”
Kazmarck pointed out that when the ordinance was written, it was always with the idea that adjustments may need to be made.
“This is nothing more than that,” he noted.
The ordinance states with the amended portion on amplification states: “Sound produced by an entertainer (or group of entertainers) shall not be audible 30 feet from the Boardwalk railing adjacent to which the entertainer (s) is/are performing. No electronic amplified devices are permitted for performances.”
Jody Levchuk and his brother, Randy Levchuk, own six of the Jilly’s businesses on the Boardwalk. Their parents own an additional two stores.
Levchuk called the ordinance a “step in the right direction,” because his family knows how disruptive loud and unwanted performances can be.
“Some of it can be very entertaining. Some of it can also be a nuisance,” he said. “Who wants to hear an overriding trumpet in your store for hours on end? I am not against entertainers on the Boardwalk, but I think the city needs to take a closer look. Trumpets and drums don’t have amplification and they are still loud.”
In order to perform on the Ocean City Boardwalk, an entertainer must first obtain a city permit.
“There is a process in place, and it is a good one,” Levchuk said. “I just think we need to tighten it up.”
Levchuk added that the Atlantic City Boardwalk used to allow entertainers.
“It became such a ruckus they stopped allowing the unsolicited entertainment,” he noted.
He also said that some customers complain, especially if the unwanted music wafts into the businesses.
“It is occasionally good, but it becomes watered down when you hear it over and over,” Levchuk said. “I don’t think people are saying no. But a lot of people get to just walk by. Business owners can’t do that.”