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Bucket Boys Snared In Alderman's Plan To Crack Down On Street Performers

By David Matthews | April 15, 2016 12:34pm | Updated on April 18, 2016 8:48am
 Torrence Penn, 22, of Englewood performs across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Torrence Penn, 22, of Englewood performs across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago.
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DNAinfo/David Matthews

DOWNTOWN — Chicago's bucket boys, a summertime staple on Downtown street corners, may have to beat it under a new law in the works at City Hall.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) is drafting an ordinance that would restrict which street performers get licenses to play Downtown, an aldermanic aide said Thursday. Reilly, whose ward covers the Loop, already is asking constituents to write letters of concern about street performers who affect their quality of life. 

Bucket boys and other street performers receive licenses to play outside from the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. 

Reporter David Matthews talks about complaints facing street performers.

"We want the [department] commissioner to understand the impact of who she gives licenses to," Reilly staffer Erin Baumann told neighbors at a Thursday police meeting. "The alderman would never in a million years issue these permits."

It's not the first time the bucket boys, who trace their origins to Bronzeville's Robert Taylor Homes, have been subject to scrutiny. A group of Michigan Avenue office buildings circulated a petition last fall in an attempt to force the performers elsewhere, and Reilly proposed a similar ordinance in 2009 cracking down on noisy street performers.

RELATED: Michigan Avenue Buildings Want Chicago's Bucket Boys to Beat It

For those who don't know, the bucket boys are young men who sit at busy corners and play drum beats on plastic buckets for tips. They're known for their coordinated routines, fancy stick work and penchant for gathering crowds.

But many people who live and work Downtown think they're a public nuisance. 

"It'd be great if they could learn more than two songs," one neighbor said after Reilly's announcement Thursday. 

 

Torrence Penn, Bucket Boy.

A video posted by David Matthews (@davem1987) on

Jonathan and Rodney Howard, two brothers from the Far Southeast Side, have played buckets Downtown for years. They told DNAinfo Chicago last fall that most passersby "love" their beats, but not necessarily those who work nearby.

"The workers don't get to see us, they just hear us," said Rodney Howard, 23.

Reilly did not return a message seeking comment. The details of his proposal are unknown, but his 2009 plan  would have revoked the licenses of street performers who exceed decibel levels in the city's noise ordinance.

A spokesman for the city's special events department said it has not been contacted about Reilly's plan, but officials "look forward" to seeing the proposed ordinance. 

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