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Reality Check: City, buskers work together to resolve 'tangible goods' issue

John James Tourville hit the streets to perform with his son, who just got a violin for his birthday. (Photo credit: WLOS)

Some of Asheville's buskers have complained to News 13 about increased police enforcement since a pilot program began regulating street performances.

The Asheville Police Department said it's responded to 32 busker-related calls in 2017.

Police began tracking calls for buskers in the spring by writing down a specific code on reports. Authorities said this will provide better data. Because there is little data, News 13 can't determine if enforcement is up, down, or the same as in previous years.

News 13 also learned the city and buskers are working together on a specific issue -- tangible goods.

What's a tangible good?

Street performers in Asheville can give people a show and accept tips, but they can't give people something they can walk away with.

"Anything that a passerby can pick up from an artist and walk away with, the city considers a tangible good," said Andrew Fletcher, who advocates to the city on behalf of the Buskers Collective.

Buskers can't "sell, display, or exhibit any tangible good, on any sidewalk, in exchange for a fixed price, or donation," the city's Busker brochure states.

It's not a new ordinance, but buskers claim enforcement hasn't always been consistent over the years.

If you're looking for consistency, then ask buskers if they should be able to sell CDs.

"It's a good thing to sell," John James Tourville said while playing the fiddle on the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Patton Avenue.

"I think there should be no problems with having CDs in the case (a guitar case) flat out," said John Gernandt, who has been busking downtown for the last two years.

"I think you should be allowed to sell what's relevant to your performance," Billy Scribbles argued.

Not all buskers give musical performances, and a city attorney recently reaffirmed written poems are also a tangible good.

"I think that the legal department has drawn a different conclusion than an everyday person might draw," Fletcher said.

The city is working with buskers to figure out a way to sell CDs.

"If you want to come down here and do other kinds of merchandising, like T-shirts and things like that, then that's now what we're trying to get done," Fletcher said.

The city said it values buskers, and buskers hope the city lets them increase their bank account's value.

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