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Faneuil Hall drops plan for street performer fees

Performer Jason "Jason Escape" Gardner was tied into a straight jacket by a pair of audience volunteers outside Faneuil Hall.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

The company that manages Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace has dropped a plan to impose new fees on its popular group of street performers, who had threatened to quit the storied program in protest.

Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. said Wednesday that after “careful consideration and a series of good-faith discussions” it had decided against charging singers, acrobats, and other entertainers up to $2,500 annually.

“We recognize the important role that arts and culture play in Boston and that the performers create a lively entertaining experience for our visitors,” the management group said in a statement. “Because of this contribution, AAC has made a significant investment to support these artists through promotional efforts, scheduling, and security,” the statement said.


AAC, a New York real estate firm, had said the charges were needed to offset administration, promotion, and security costs for the performances at the downtown shopping area, a popular draw in the warmer months. But performers called the fees prohibitive and said it was unfair that they should have to pay to participate in the program.

Performers said that they were thrilled by the decision.

“We had such a united voice in this,” said Rebecca Liberman, a musician in her fifth year playing at Faneuil Hall. “We were all in it together.”

Liberman said that the performers had planned to boycott Faneuil Hall starting June 1. Interviewed by the Globe earlier this month about the fees, many of the performers said they had no plans to pay them, and they felt management was taking advantage of them.

Many of the performers, who rely on tips from spectators, have been part of the entertainers’ program for years. When they learned about the fees in late April, they boycotted the auditions.

Performers said the fees ranged from $500 for solo musicians to $2,500 for variety acts.


The marketplace is owned by the city, which leases three of the four buildings to Ashkenazy Acquisition, which in September announced plans for an overhaul of the tourist attraction.

Plans call for turning the central food court into open retail spaces and more upscale bars and restaurants, leading some performers to fear they will no longer be wanted.

But management said the program is “an important ingredient of our success at Faneuil Hall Marketplace currently and an integral part of the improvements proposed in our master plan.”

“It is our hope that as we look to remake the marketplace to bring back Bostonians who live and work here, our public partners, the city of Boston and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, will continue to strongly support these improvements as they have to date,” the group said.

Peter Schworm can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globepete.