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Fremont Busker Rules Work For Some But Might Change

AP Photo/John Locher

In this Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, photo, Taylor Rich, second from right, puts on his mask as he and other street performers work for tips along Fremont Street in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas city council is looking to institute new rules for street performers on Fremont Street.

Late last year, Las Vegas enacted new laws to rein in some of the street performers on downtown’s Fremont Street.

The Fremont Street Experience, a canopied five-block stretch lined with casinos, swelled during the recession with performers trying to make a living.

Some of the sights and sounds were called out as being offensive. Imagine men wearing nothing but jockstraps posing with tourists for a few dollars.

The city, though, can’t deny someone access due to the First Amendment. But arguments and fights had broken out between performers for prime spots.

So the city enacted ordinances that created circles for performers to work in, and limited their time.

City Attorney Brad Jerbic told KNPR's State of Nevada that the number of complaints dropped from a couple dozen a month to just one since the rules went into effect.

“It has been remarkable,” he said, "It is a much, much improved environment."

But the laws are causing some issues unforeseen. Buskers are sometimes having to tussle with tourists standing in their circles; confusion over the rules are causing arguments between buskers; and some of the circles are so out of the way that performers don't want to use them -- they can't make any money.

Jerbic said they are looking at tweaking the rules. He said the performers want to have a choice in which circles they get because some work better for their performance than others.

“What we’re trying to do is listen to what the performers are asking of us which is to try to give them a higher chance of getting the circles they want in the lottery,” he said.

Jerbic is hosting a meeting of buskers and others, including the ACLU of Nevada, to discuss possible changes to the law.

He said they want to make sure they're addressing issues properly before they making any changes to the ordinance.

Brad Jerbic, city attorney, City of Las Vegas

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.