Hoopla over Hula-Hoops soon over

An accord is close on new rules for street performers and the like at the Fremont Street Experience, and the city of Las Vegas probably will not ban Hula-Hoops after all.

As long as the hoop isn’t too big, of course.

The original ordinance attracted national attention for containing that proposed ban and also for seeking to establish "free expression zones" to corral street performers and people asking for money, such as donations to a cause.

The ordinance also attracted criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which said the city was about to pass yet another Fremont Street ordinance that violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The city, the ACLU and Fremont Street Experience LLC have been meeting for months and have negotiated a new ordinance, although many details need to be nailed down.

Wednesday’s City Council agenda lists the ordinance as ready for approval, but the item will be held until December, City Attorney Brad Jerbic said.

The new version would scrap the free expression zones and do away with bans on specific behavior, such as using a Hula-Hoop or a megaphone.

Instead, it would require entertainers to stay a certain distance from places such as doorways and ATMs, prevent interference with sanctioned Fremont Street entertainers and ensure that pedestrian traffic is not blocked.

"We are extremely close to doing the final amended version," Jerbic said. "It has distance separations for solicitors and street entertainers from the retail kiosks, from doorways, from stage shows, and time restrictions during light shows and other entertainment."

Hula-Hoops "are now defined as those hoops that are four feet or less in diameter," he said. "And you will be able to do that as part of entertainment."

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada ACLU, said the ordinance would contain "ministerial things to keep the (pedestrian) flow going."

"It’s really just specifying the constitutional time, place and manner," he said, referring to a legal standard that says speech can be regulated but not for content. "If what we’ve agreed upon is implemented, then everyone will be happy."

Maybe.

On Monday afternoon, two performers, "Fabulous" and "Rokn’ Jo," who dress as showgirls and pose with tourists at the Fremont Street Experience, were a little worried about any new regulations. They declined to provide their formal names. There’s now a small side industry composed mostly of celebrity look-alikes who accept tips to pose for pictures.

It’s good the free speech zone idea was jettisoned, Fabulous said: "That’s not gonna fly." But any new rules shouldn’t interfere with a livelihood that’s also a hit with tourists, the duo said.

"People who do it properly are an attraction for the city," Fabulous said, as a steady stream of people stopped to take pictures with the pair.

"These visitors are building our city," Jo said. "They’re keeping Las Vegas alive. Old Las Vegas is slowly returning."

Both women are veterans of local shows, and because they already had the showgirl costumes, they figured making money downtown is a better option than unemployment.

"The economy is killing performers," Rokn’ Jo said. "There’s not a lot of work.

"What do you do to get a job? We’re not office workers. We’re circus clowns."

Las Vegas and the ACLU have been litigating various Fremont Street ordinances for nearly 15 years.

The previous ordinances were thrown out for violating free speech rights, although rulings also noted that the city has legitimate concerns with pedestrian flow and protecting commercial activity.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@review journal.com or 702-229-6435.

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