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Sorry, Street Musicians. The Downtown Crackdown Just Took A Big Step Forward

By Stephen Gossett in News on Feb 15, 2017 9:17PM

Getty Images / Photo: Nick Ledger
Be it a blessed sign of more peaceful times on the horizon or encroaching Footloose-ization of our city streets, street performers may soon be prevented from making much of a peep at all on some of Chicago’s most tourist-magnetic downtown streets.

With only one vote of opposition, an ordinance introduced by Ald. Brendan Reilly (Ward 42) last month, which would significantly pipe down street musicians on certain streets, passed committee on Wednesday by the City Council. It will be considered by the full City Council on Monday.

Along the busy downtown corridors of Michigan Avenue—specifically, between Cedar and Balbo—and State Street—between Huron and Jackson—performers would not be allowed to “emit noise that is audible to a person with normal hearing more than 20 feet away.” That, needless to say, is very quiet. The ordinance would also prevent street performers from playing at any time in Millennium Park and along any sidewalk that runs along it.

Reilly did not immediately return a request for comment, but he told the Tribune in a statement sent prior to the ordinance’s approval that the 42nd Ward office has fielded “literally thousands” of complaints. "It is important to note these complaints do not only come from downtown residents, they come from dozens of downtown businesses and office workers, too," Reilly said.

While a final “yes” or “no” is yet to be determined, the smart money would seem to be on the ordinance passing. As Trib transportation reporter Mary Wisniewsk recently noted on the subject, aldermen tend to defer to the local rep in matters of his or her own neighborhood.

Sorry, Silver Man. Also, sorry, that guy who seems to pop up at State and Randolph near the holidays every single year and ceaselessly repeat the same figure of “My Favorite Things” on his horn, still falling several galaxies short of the John Coltrane fantasies that presumably swim through his head.

Actually, stragglers aside, we're fairly big fans of many of Chicago's iconic street performers. While we're sympathetic to the pain of having to work through a noisy afternoon, lets hope our favorites aren't driven out of sight—or driven (literally) underground into a mess of backbiting.