In the end, it wasn’t the blustery winter or sweltering summer days that did it, it was the combination of city regulations and age that finally forced a downtown Montreal icon into retirement.
Cyrille Esteve, aka “Spoonman,” says he’s ready to walk away from his Ste-Catherine Street perch in front of the Olgivy department store after more than 20 years of clacking in time with the fiddle and accordion music billowing from his small sound system.
Esteve turned 65 last month and says it’s time to become a pensioner–at least part time–after taking in an average of $20 for a 10-hour day.
He might have stayed longer, he says, but for city bylaws.
One forbids buskers from staying in one spot for more than an hour at a time.
After that, they must move to another location at least 60 metres away.
Esteve says it takes 30 minutes to set up every day and age is making the procedure tougher and tougher.
In addition, Esteve, who used to win the now defunct Montreal Mirror’s “favourite busker” vote every year, is forbidden to sell souvenir spoons to passers-by, cutting any chance to augment his income.
He must also contend with a bylaw that limits the maximum wattage in his music box to 25 watts.
Esteve tells Canadian Press that he might make periodic comebacks but meanwhile he’s bought a Jack Russell puppy that he will teach to play hockey and basketball while he panhandles and busks occasionally at corners he’s familiar with.
Esteve has had his share of run-ins with the law in the past–in 1999 and in 2004, when hundreds of Montrealers signed a petition to let him play on.
But fighting city hall is getting harder and harder.
“They said they would seize my stuff,” he says. “That’s the first time something like that happened.”
With files from Canadian Press, CBC