Street performers being told to get off the streets

Zayn Abidin

Street performers on Frenchmen Street are beginning to sing somber tunes, thanks to a new security innitiative that seeks to address crimes and problems on the music district by escorting performers off the sidewalks due to public safety.

Paid by the Frenchmen Marigny Business Association, the security detail seeks to stop street artists and vendors from performing or selling products in the middle of the sidewalk in order to decrease the rate of crime and better protect the premier tourist destination.

Otis Fennel, owner of Faubourg Marigny Art and Books, said that the people who organized the patrol believe that if there is a police control enforcement around the highly visited area, there will be a substantial drop in crime and overall security. He added that the local owners who joined together to pay for the security patrol want to also prevent vendors from illegally setting up stalls and selling things in front of businesses.

“The more eyes we have on the streets, the better opportunity we have to remain ‘crime free’,” Fennel said.

The business association, which was created to deal with issues that the Frenchmen Street business owners encounter on a daily basis, is paying a monthly fee for two security officers and an NOPD off-duty officer to patrol Friday and Saturday nights covering a 2.5 block stretch on Frenchmen Street. The weekend monitoring has led some business owners to take action against musicians and vendors who set up their work place on the streets without holding the appropriate permits.

Kia Cavallaro, a Washington state native, has been a street performer in the city since 2009. She said she is bearing the brunt of this new security detail, which can most likely take away her livelihood.

“I heard about it and there’s a lot of petition being signed against it, and I’ve talked to a lot of other street performers about this. It’s really a bummer for us because this is my job and I really love doing it and it’s a beautiful way of connecting with people and getting your music out there without any guidelines,” Cavallaro said.

Cavallaro added that although she hasn’t been approached by the security patrol directly, she has, however, encountered different business owners who have asked her to not perform in front of their business.

She said this is going to affect her tremendously and will probably force her out of the city, since she moved here because of a flourishing music scene.

“Well, I’ll be out of a job and will have to figure out another way of income,” Cavallaro said. “This is my passion and I feel pretty lucky to be able to do it and I really want to keep doing it. It feels good.”

Although many business owners are banding together to keep street performers and vendors away from the streets, not all of them share the same sentiment.

Bambi DeVille, owner of the Bambi DeVille’s Vintage Clothing, said that she doesn’t understand why business owners are telling these musicians to stay away from the streets.

“I mean some of our greatest in New Orleans, historically, have been street performers. Louis Amrstrong was a street performer, so it doesn’t make sense to me,” DeVille said.

She added that the musicians don’t mean any harm and the city should leave them alone.

“I don’t think they threat public safety. I know them, they’re just musicians. And why are we doing this to our city? Why? They getting rid of things that make us special,” DeVille said.