Ocean City Performers Take The Town To Court Over Turf Restrictions

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Ocean City street performers say city rules are bad for business.

They are taking a fight with the town off the boardwalk and into a courtroom, saying they are not happy with restrictions over where they can entertain.

They want a federal judge to settle the score, but it won’t happen until fall. So, like it or not, they are stuck spending the next few months following the rules.

Bill Campion is 83 years old. And he’s spent 20 of those years entertaining Ocean City’s youngest crowd. Just about any balloon animal kids could want, he can make.

“I make poodles, giraffes, dogs and monkeys,” he says.

On Tuesday, 3-year-old Mason toddled off with a Batman balloon, leaving Campion a $2 tip. Cash that will be harder to come this summer, he says.

“They don’t know where to find me anymore,” he explains.

He and other street performers blame that on Ocean City rules passed in 2015, limited where they can work and using a lottery system to assign spots that change every week.

“I can’t get a spot that’s good for me,” Campion says.

“I wanted that spot. It was available. They said you can’t have it two weeks in a row. Nobody wants that spot. Why can’t I have it?”

He won’t find out until the town’s busiest months are behind it for the year. That means Campion will spend three months under the Maryland sun, where the heat pops his balloons, instead of the shaded areas he used to pick.

Stickers marking off 10-foot boxes all up and down the boardwalk mark where street performers can and cannot be. If they break those invisible boundaries, they’re looking at up to a $1,000 fine.

The town says it’s all part of a balancing act, finding a compromise that will keep crowds safe and keep performers in business.

Officials wrote the following statement to WJZ Tuesday:

“We are confident that the current regulations help address the issues of public safety, congestion and overcrowding on the Boardwalk by establishing a reasonable time, place and manner for Boardwalk performers to continue the tradition of entertaining guests.”

A tradition Campion wants to carry on, too. Just not boxed in by a sticker.

“I want them to get off our back,” Campion says. “Let us do what we do.”

The town uses a lottery system to figure out who goes where, and the locations change every week. They say those designated spaces are important because of how crowded the boardwalk can get.

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