UPDATED: March 17 3:30 p.m.
A noise violation ticket issued to a street musician last weekend has been downgraded to a warning.
After reviewing the circumstances leading up to the $500 ticket being issued, City of Kelowna staff decided to seek a more cooperative approach to resolving the musician’s use of an amplifier on downtown streets.
“We always try for a cooperative approach and use a ticket as a last resort,” said Rob Mayne, divisional director of corporate and protective services. “The bylaw officer tried this approach initially, but was unable to negotiate a solution in the moment with the performer and decided to issue the ticket.”
Bylaw enforcement officers act on these cases when they receive a complaint. A complaint from an occupant of a building where the musician was performing was answered by the officer on Saturday.
“Although we have issued warnings to this performer last summer and even the day before he was ticketed, we are willing to try again. We want to arrive at a solution that is fair to all the other buskers who do comply with the rules,” said Mayne.
Festivals Kelowna operates the busking program and permits to ensure street performers have equal opportunities to locations and appropriate sound levels for amplified music. The Busk Stop program approves sound levels that the amplifier can be used at, and that information is recorded on the permit.
The reason bylaw or RCMP officers ask performers to carry their permit is to determine if the musician has connected with the Festivals Kelowna program.
“Bylaw officers have the difficult job of reacting to complaints from property owners and residents, while educating those who are not complying with bylaws to get them to change their behaviour. In this case, we wanted to take another try at finding a cooperative solution,” said Mayne.
A video local musician S.e Elliot filmed Saturday while being ticketed by a Kelowna bylaw officer is rapidly spreading through social media and raising a new round of questions about this city’s busking regulations.
In the video, Elliot explains that he was issued a $500 ticket for making a public disturbance while playing some songs at a stop on Bernard Avenue.
The ticket, he was told by the city officer in the brief video, was based out of the Kelowna Noise and Disturbances control bylaw.
“If there’s been a complaint let me know,” Elliot asked the bylaw officer.
The bylaw officer then asks if he can see Elliot’s busking permit.
“While you are not at a busking stop, you are asked not to show the busking licence,” Elliot said. For the interaction, Elliot was left with a ticket.
Elliot later said that police described the costly interaction between bylaw and the musician as a “pissing match” and that there was no public complaint to have triggered the interaction. In fact the only public input in the video is someone saying that they enjoyed his music, while they refer to the officer with a disparaging term.
Elliot also correct about his right to busk.
While Festivals Kelowna does maintain “busking zones” for musicians licensed under the Kelowna Buskers program, there is no law against unlicensed musician being tipped for their performance or for busking.
Busking, which is the practise of performing in public places for tips and gratuities, is a staple in the city’s cultural policy and the busking program is often funded by council who, through policy, encourage local and touring, professional and amateur, buskers to perform their fun art form.
Buskers may do anything that will entertain people such as mime, physical comedy, juggling, puppetry, playing an instrument, or singing.
Elliot said he won’t be able to afford to pay the ticket, particularly if he’s unable to keep busking, so he’s asked that the community help and, while they’re at it, offer their opinion on busking.
More to come.