Michelle Nicholson and William Beattie, of food shop Arabella’s in the town’s Midsteeple, say they cannot understand the fee demanded by the council when buskers can perform without a permit or any charge.
Arabella’s, which features Sweet Sadie’s, opened in April and Michelle said: “As well as opening the shop we’re trying to put a wee bit more into our community, because the High Street is an absolute disgrace.
“On the other side of the Midsteeple is a run of seven empty shops, with empty shops everywhere.
“We go to cities and visit and they’re vibrant, with music playing everywhere.
“You come to Dumfries, and there’s nothing.”
Michelle and William enlisted local bands to perform each Saturday lunchtime over five weeks, beginning with The Lutras last month.
Michelle said: “While they were playing we had adults and kids dancing about loving it. We thought, ‘This is excellent’.”
But because the couple were paying the acts and providing electricity, they say they were approached by Dumfries and Galloway Council who explained they would need to pay an annual performing rights fee in excess of £1000.
Michelle and William had previously noted the challenge of finding retail premises in Dumfries town centre, and complained about a lack of help from the council when trying to acquire the unit in the Midsteeple.
Frustrated that buskers do not pay the same fees, and at councillors repeatedly expressing a desire to see more life in the centre of town, Michelle said: “It’s a case of the council stopping you or charging you for doing absolutely anything.”
Dumfries and Galloway Council says they are a licensing authority, and under a Government act they are ‘responsible for licensing ‘Places of Public Entertainment’, whether the entertainment is provided free of charge or on payment’.
A spokesman said: “Outdoor music events are licensed as public entertainment and the fee structure for applications was agreed by council committee.
“The fees applicable depend on a number of factors, including duration of the licence and the anticipated audience number.”