Music on the streets: Why Conway is unique among Grand Strand cities

Pictured is Conway's historic Riverwalk.
Pictured is Conway's historic Riverwalk. jbell@thesunnews.com

Conway City Council on Tuesday voted for music in the streets — more specifically, to allow street musicians to play in certain areas of Downtown Conway while soliciting donations.

The new busking ordinance is modeled after ordinances in Greenville, South Carolina and Wilmington and Asheville in North Carolina, said city spokesperson Taylor Newell.

City Administrator Adam Emrick said he's heard from musicians who are interested in the new ordinance. The city has also spoken with Coastal Carolina University about the idea.

"Coastal Carolina University has lots of amateur fledgling musicians that we think will take advantage of this," Emrick said. "We’ve spoken to their cultural arts department and we think that’ll be something they can use."

After getting a $15 permit, a performer (or a a group of up to three performers who play together) is allowed to play music and accept donations in certain parts of downtown Conway, according to the new ordinance.

Busking locations include Kingston Park, city property at the corner of Laurel Street and 2nd Avenue, the Garden Walk between Scarborough Alley and 3rd Avenue, the Riverwalk in front of the Lower River Warehouse, the state at Riverfront Park and Robert Mills Garden.

Permits are good for one year, and come with some rules: performers can play only from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. They can't play for more than 90 minutes in one spot, play within 50 feet of another busker or play while drinking any sort of alcoholic beverage.

Conway will be the first city along the Grand Strand to have a comprehensive ordinance for street musicians.

In Myrtle Beach, playing music while accepting donations is only allowed in Chapin Park if you have a $25 performance art permit, according to spokesperson Mark Kruea. Performing on the city sidewalks is allowed as long as the performers aren't accepting money, unless it's part of a special permitted event such as those held by the Oceanfront Merchants Association.

Performers are not allowed to block sidewalks.

Busking is "not conducive to sidewalk traffic," said Kruea. City rules do not allow asking for money on sidewalks because it could cause congestion.

In North Myrtle Beach, busking would fall under the city's "roadside vending ordinance, which would prohibit the activity," spokesperson Pat Dowling said in an email.

"Busking is not something that we actively search out," Dowling said. "If it does occur, and someone registers a complaint with the city, we will most likely ask them to move on from that location. It appears that in the last 20 years or so, we have had only a couple of instances where complaints were registered. No fines were assessed and those involved simply moved on."

In Surfside Beach, busking is also prohibited.

Town Clerk Debra Herrmann said buskers would be asked to leave, but repeat offenders would be charged with a misdemeanor.

Emrick said there's a demand for busking that hasn't been filled.

"When I was planning director, it’s been two years ago, we had someone cold call and say 'Hey I’d like to come be a street musician. Do you have any ordinance to let me do it?'" Emrick said. "At the time we didn’t."

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian