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Keep it down: City Council looks at limiting noise from Waikiki street performers

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 9:52 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2021 at 10:18 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tourists crammed Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki on Friday, with some of those visitors stopping to take in some of the street performers on the sidewalk.

It’s a familiar scene in the state’s no. 1 tourist destination.

But now, the City Council is looking at limiting how loud those street performers can get after getting complaints from residents.

Performers have been busking in Waikiki for years. But some residents said that after tourism returned this past summer, performances have gotten louder.

“We’ve had residents come in who are totally upset that they can’t sleep, they can’t listen to their friends talk, they can’t listen to the TV,” said Waikiki Neighborhood Board chairman Bob Finley.

A bill introduced by Council Chair Tommy Waters proposes that performers can’t use amplified sound that can be heard more than 30 feet away.

Another part of the measure also look at a yet-to-be determined decibel level limit.

We measured one group of performing youngsters at about 70 decibels from 30 feet away. That’s about as loud as a washing machine or dishwasher.

The father of those performers said it’s not just how loud the groups get.

“I do think there’s some acts, some of the performers, really contribute to the atmosphere, even if you hear them beyond 30 feet. And there are some acts - again this is my opinion -- that take away from the atmosphere,” said Jason Hawkins, whose three older children have performed on the street for about a year.

Meanwhile, Marshall Turner has been playing an electric guitar with backing tracks for the past five years. He’s also a bit louder, coming in at a little over 80 decibels from about 20 feet away.

Turner and other street performers say it’s not just them -- it’s also the noise from traffic, plus bars and restaurants who hire their own musical acts.

“Some people have better hearing than others,” said Turner, who pointed out some music playing from speakers at a nearby store. “I can hear that from 30 feet away.”

“If you come to Waikiki, you move down here, you kinda know what you’re getting into,” said Hawkins. “I wouldn’t move to Times Square, in that area, because I would know what to expect.”

Everyone agrees that it’s about finding a balance.

“Granted, it won’t be a rock concert level of noise, but at the same time our neighbors will be able to have their windows open and enjoy their evenings at home,” said Finley.

The bill has already passed its first reading at the city council with a unanimous vote.

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