Calling all scofflaw buskers -- if you were putting off getting your 2013 street performer's license, this is the month to do it.
A judge issued a preliminary injunction yesterday prohibiting the city of St. Louis from enforcing the latest updates to its buskering law, which bumped up the price of the performer's license from $25 to $100.
"Even when a licensing fee is permissible in the Free Speech context, the government may charge no more than the amount needed to cover administrative costs," Judge Catherine Perry writes. "The proponent of the licensing fee must show that the amount of the fee is 'reasonably related to the expenses incident to the administration of the ordinance and to the maintenance of public safety and order.'"
See also: - Street Musicians, ACLU Sue City of St. Louis Over Permit Law Requiring Fees, Auditions - Musicians Squawk As City Quadruples Price of a Street Performer Permit - St. Louis Has a Busking Poet. This Kind of Stuff Makes Our City Cool
Fred Walker, a saxophonist who plays at the Soulard Farmers' Market, found out about the price hike earlier in the season and brought the changes up with the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. Attorneys for the ACLU-EM filed suit on behalf of Walker and another performer against the city earlier this month, arguing the law is too broad and a violation of the men's First Amendment rights.
The injunction will be in place until the case's next hearing on July 12, and until then the city will only be allowed to charge $50 per license, and $100 for groups not to exceed nine members. Under the previous language each member of a performing group needed a $100 license. Furthermore, buskers who paid the higher fees can get a refund of the difference.
"I am very happy with this progress of the suit," Walker wrote Daily RFT in an e-mail. "I will wait, however, for the completion of the case before seeking a refund."
The injunction does not speak to the First Amendment issues raised in the suit -- that'll have to wait for the July hearing. Read the judge's order below: