The following questions and answers are intended to provide fairly quick and easy answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions that musicians, artists and/or performers may have about performing downtown. As the spectrum of circumstances can vary greatly, some exceptions may apply and in all cases, the Huntsville Code will prevail and will be the legal and authoritative source from which decisions are based. Big Springs Partners urges anyone seeking to perform in the park and downtown area to read the applicable codes and talk to the City Zoning Administrator and/or City Clerk’s office to clarify the policies.
1. Can I play my music in the park, as an individual or as part of a band?
Yes, as long as you don’t have any amplification, don’t require electricity, don’t take up more than a 10’ x 10’ space, don’t obstruct the sidewalks and rights-of-way, don’t operate as a business and don’t violate the noise ordinance (other restrictions may apply, refer to Huntsville Code).
2. Do I have to stay in one spot?
a. If you’re selling anything or otherwise operating as a business, then you have to stay in one spot.
b. If you’re simply playing for fun (which includes accepting non-solicited tips), there are no specific restrictions on where you can play.
NOTE: If you’re operating as a business on the courthouse square or downtown streets, there will be designated “approved areas” that you must be within; however, if you’re in the parks, you can move around as long as you’re not operating as a business by charging any fees, soliciting or generating any sales.
3. How do I find out what is an “approved area”?
Contact City of Huntsville Zoning Administration office at 256-564-8008 or go to their office at 308 Fountain Circle in the Municipal Annex building directly across from City Hall. A map is being prepared by the city that will specifically identify the “approved areas” around the courthouse square and once approved, the map will be displayed on the websites for City of Huntsville (www.huntsvilleal.gov) and Big Spring Partners (www.downtownhuntsville.org).
4. Where do I go to get a license?
City of Huntsville Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 308 Fountain Circle, Huntsville, Alabama 35801. Their phone number is 256-427-5082.
5. What ordinances provide specific information for vendors, musicians, performers, performing artists in the parks or public spaces?
Section 18 of the Huntsville Code pertains to “Peddlers and Solicitors” and outlines the specifics of what can and cannot be done in the public areas of the Central City Area, a specifically delineated geographic area generally bound by Governors Drive, Memorial Parkway, Holmes Avenue and Franklin Street, Washington Street and East Side Square, which includes the courthouse square and Big Spring Park areas. See a map of the “Central City Area” under Maps and Data on this website.
6. Is there a fee for getting a license?
Yes, the city will charge a $10.00 “issuance fee” to issue the annual Privilege License, plus there will be a cost for the annual Privilege License which is based on the total gross sales and/or type of activity.
7. For a musician, artist or performer selling a product or service or charging any fees (i.e., “operating as a business”) in the public spaces downtown, what is the typical license fee for the Privilege License?
Most would likely be $35.00 per year if sales are under $9,999.00 per year, or $65 per year for gross sales from $10,000 to $249,999 per year. Section 15-59 (License Schedule) of the Municipal Code outlines the fee schedule for all business types operating within the city and should be consulted before seeking a license. License fees are specific to the type of activity being conducted and could be higher than the $35.00 depending on the activity and gross sales volume. For instance, the license fee for “mediums” such as fortunetellers or palm readers is $1,000 per year regardless of gross sales volume.
8. How long is the license good for?
With some exceptions, licenses are issued for an annual basis from January 1 to December 31.
9. If I’m selling anything or charging a fee (i.e., “operating as a business”), do I have to display my license or have the license with me when performing in the public areas?
Yes, Section 15-56 of the Municipal Code discusses this topic and should be consulted. You are supposed to be able to produce the license at your place of business if requested by a police officer or other authorized city representative as discussed in Section 15-56.
10. Can I advertise my availability for hire or paying performances?
Yes, you can if you have a business license and have coordinated the place where you will be set-up in the downtown area with the License Department. Then, you can have a sign, but it will need to be no larger than 2 feet x 2 feet (i.e., no large banner signs).