Laguna Beach nudges buskers off street corners, away from doors

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Michael Minutoli took on the role of Laguna’s greeter nearly 10 years ago. He and fellow buskers will be moved off street corners and limited to performing 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. pending final approval of a new city law. Firebrand Media Photo

By Breeana Greenberg, Special to the Independent

Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously at its June 15 meeting on new busking regulations.

The new law prevents buskers from performing before 11 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Performers must also be at least 10 feet from any bus stop, street corner, crosswalk, or business or residential entrance. Performers cannot use public benches or trash cans.

City staffers claim the new law aims to promote safety and creates a system that will offer more artists the chance to perform.

Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl explained that because the Performance Deck in the pedestrian promenade on Forest Avenue is highly coveted by street performers, the ordinance aims to extend the opportunity to use the stage to more performers.

“This would really bolster some of those performance opportunities,” Poeschl said.

In the evenings on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the cultural art department will arrange for live musicians and performances on the Promenade’s stage.

Performers will need to apply for a permit through the cultural arts department to use the stage at the Promenade. There is no charge for this permit.

A nonprofit organization would be limited to reserving the Performance Deck for a maximum of 14 days a year. According to the ordinance, a “nonprofit organization’s performance duration may not exceed four hours, while individual performers may not exceed three hours.”

Performers will not be required to get a permit to perform on the street.

“The ordinance would regulate the time, place, and manner, in a way that continues to ensure that street performance and performers can enhance the character of the community, ensure the safety of performers, their audience and the general public, and prevent interference with the ability of businesses to operate,” Senior Administrative Analyst Jeremy Frimond said.

Performers cannot build a stage or use hazardous props and cannot block pedestrians from moving safely and freely. A city official may require that a performer relocate if their performance, or the crowd gathered to watch the performance is blocking pedestrian traffic.

Performers also cannot charge spectators, according to the ordinance, “money given for a performance shall be on a donation only basis.”

Vincent Rossi who performs under the name Falcon Ärk plays improvisational, instrumental, and singer songwriter music on his guitar. Rossi stood on the corner of Park Avenue and South Coast Highway, looking for a place to set up Tuesday. When told about the new busking rules he asked, “where would I play? Because there’s businesses and street corners,” gesturing to Chantilly Ice Cream.

“What you’re doing is trying to have a nice exterior and you’re trying to avoid the shame that would come from being the bad guy who kicks the guy out but you are kicking them out,” Rossi said. “You’ve got to look at yourself, why are you doing that? Do you recognize in your heart, it’s a good thing to have a musician around?”

Councilmember Toni Iseman brought up safety concerns with a specific busker, greeter Michael Minutoli, as a reason why the ordinance is necessary.

“There’s someone in town who’s taken on the role of the greeter, and that happens, there have been several over the years,” Iseman said. “But the current one, you can see on the corner in front of Sapphire restaurant, very narrow sidewalk. He’s a mime and he waves and leans into the street and he yells at people and waves at people. And if he’s there, I always think there’s going to be a car accident because he’s a major distraction at a very difficult cross street. When I see him at Main Beach, it’s entertaining because he’s not creating a potential for a very serious accident.”

The ordinance will be up for a second reading and vote at the next City Council meeting on June 29. If passed at the second reading, the ordinance will go into effect on July 29.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is an overreaction and fear on the part of Councilwoman Iseman. I see no problem with the present “Greeter” performing at Sapphire’s. It’s quite charming and welcoming…and to date I am unaware of any statistics which validate accidents occurring because of his performance. I think her concern dampens the spirit of spontaneous joy. There are no alcohol or drugs involved in the performance of this iconic “Greeter.” Why not focus more on curtailing the distraction of the many motorcycles which violate noise laws and speed pass PCH at Sapphire’s? That is a valid physical threat to pedestrians and the exhaust emitted actually is more unsafe than the antics of the “Greeter.” Let him bring us joy.
    I am unconcerned that his happiness is a danger to anyone.

  2. This whole thing is SO ridiculous!!
    Please leave our greeter alone! He is a pleasant diversion with such a happy attitude! A many years tradition to keep!

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