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July 16, 2019

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Proposed ordinance would create Fremont Street performance zones

Performers at Fremont Street Experience

Steve Marcus

Contortionist Kelvin Gordon performs at Fremont Street Experience on Sunday, July 27, 2014, in downtown Las Vegas.

Performers at the Fremont Street Experience

Contortionist Kelvin Gordon folds himself into a box during a performance at the Fremont Street Experience Sunday, July 27, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Proposed Ordinance For Downtown Street Performers

City Attorney Brad Jerbic speaks during a news conference as City Councilmen Ricki Barlow, center, and Bob Coffin listen at Las Vegas City Hall Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The city unveiled a proposed ordinance that would regulate street performers at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

A proposed Las Vegas ordinance would require Fremont Street performers to stay in designated areas and register with the city if they want to work for tips in the entertainment district.

The ordinance is meant to balance the First Amendment rights of performers to express themselves with efforts to mitigate complaints from visitors that the promenade is overcrowded with performers.

If passed by the City Council, the ordinance would designate up to 38 performance zones. From 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., one busker at a time would be allowed to perform in the 6-foot areas for up to two consecutive hours.

The initiative is part of an effort to bring order to Fremont Street, which already has been targeted with a ban on glass containers and restrictions on package liquor sales.

The proposed system is modeled after one used by Santa Monica, Calif., to regulate street artists.

At a news conference today, Councilman Bob Coffin, whose ward includes the Fremont Street Experience, described the ordinance as part of a “tenuous quest to see if we can’t do something to help organize a little better the human behavior on Fremont Street.”

While the Fremont Street Experience is operated and managed privately, it is considered a public forum, City Attorney Brad Jerbic said. To avoid infringing on First Amendment rights, the ordinance addresses the time, place and manner of performances, rather than their content.

“The ordinance recognizes the rights of expression, the right to assemble, the right to speak and the visitor’s right to be entertained on their terms,” said ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story, whose office was involved in drafting the ordinance.

Clifford “Buddy” Big Mountain, who normally puts on a marionette show six nights a week, said the restrictions could limit his ability to perform.

“My concern is being able to work all day,” said Big Mountain, who usually works the same part of Fremont Street from 5 p.m. to midnight.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits on most uses of open flames, generators and lead-acid batteries. It will be introduced Aug. 5, and the City Council will take public comments on Sept. 2.

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