The Truth About The "Footloose Act" Music Legislation That Everyone Is Worried About

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The hysteria started spreading through Cleveland’s music world about two weeks ago: word that legislation is in the works that would ban all live music in the city of Cleveland.

Promptly dubbed the “Footloose Act,” it quickly drew opposition in the form of an online petition addressed to “Cleveland City Counsel.” In response, The Plain Dealer decried the legislation by boldly contradicting its own editorial from earlier this summer. Wild-eyed TV reporters embellished the story for bonus ratings. And in multiple interviews, councilman Joe Cimperman effectively took all sides on the issue.

The only problem: They all got it wrong. There’s no attempt to ban live music in Cleveland. Turns out opponents misunderstood a key portion of the proposal.

Here’s the truth: A group that includes city council members, safety and law department representatives, and development groups spent more than a year revising the city’s entertainment code, which dates to the 1920s and mostly deals with proper use of a Victrola. The goal was to simplify the law, apply it to contemporary situations, make it easier to enforce — and to permit live entertainment, which isn’t even legal under current code.

Submitted in March, the bill weathered planning commission hearings that included business owners and residents, and changes were made. It’s now awaiting council consideration.

The problem stems from a clause in the bill that seemingly limits music in most businesses to unamplified acoustic tunes. What critics didn’t notice is that the new law would not apply to nightclubs — which are where most of Cleveland’s live music emanates from. Also exempt are businesses that are not part of a neighborhood shopping strip. And for those that do meet the more stringent criteria? They’re eligible to have the rules waived anyway.

Owners of live music clubs in Cleveland, initially alarmed by panicked calls from musicians, calmed down once they got the straight story.

“I understand it doesn’t apply to us,” says the Beachland’s Cindy Barber. — Anastasia Pantsios

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