NEW ORLEANS -- Can street performers “play with fire" in the French Quarter?
A performance this weekend at actor Channing Tatum’s Bourbon Street bar and restaurant called Saints & Sinners has some historic building owners asking that very question.
The fire performer swirled balls of fire, called poi, from the Bourbon Street-facing courtyard of Saints & Sinners Saturday night to the delight, and some fear danger, of the passing crowd.
“The crowds were going crazy in the street and they wanted more and more,” said Laura Albert, who owns the historic home next door.
She said Saturday night she and her daughter were up until 3 a.m. worried about whether the performer would light the bar, and in turn, her home on fire.
“That house leans on my house. We're all, like, some little match sticks along this way,” Albert said.
She called New Orleans Police, but says by the time they got there, the bar was shutting down anyway.
Fire spinners argue the danger is not as serious as it seems.
“The beauty of this is that it looks really dangerous. That's how we make our tips. That's how we make our money because it's wow, whoa. But in reality, the fuel that we're burning burns at a low temperature. It’s tiki-torch fuel,” said performer Devin “Pretty Lights Guy” de St. Germain. He was not the performer on Bourbon Street Saturday.
But Pretty Lights Guy said he went to City Hall in the past to see if he needed a performance permit and was told the city wasn't issuing them.
Tuesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s press secretary said in an email that an open flame permit is required from the New Orleans Fire Department.
In order to obtain a permit, Tyler Gamble said in an email, “In order to obtain a permit: The performance must be done in the presence of an NOFD fire inspector to determine if it meets code and to ensure the performer is aware of all restrictions and requirements that must be in place. (fire extinguisher present, audience distance requirement, safety contingents) An NOFD Fire Watch must be in place for each performance regardless of location and assembly type."
The permits are $50.
“That's news to me because I didn't know the fire department would say that you needed one, because like I said, I've been there, I asked the same questions and I got a different answer. Definitely confusing,” Pretty Lights Guy said.
The Marigny is becoming known by fire performers as a place to come and do what they do. In fact, it's not uncommon to find them performing on Frenchmen Street on weekends.
“It is catching on. I'd say it's getting more popular,” Pretty Lights Guy said.
It’s something he said he hopes will safely continue.
Saints & Sinners' manager didn't return our call asking about Saturday's incident.
The mayor's office now says the Fire Department is investigating it.