Montreal's famous 'Spoonman' busker says he's semi-retiring due to city bylaws

Montreal's famous 'Spoonman' busker says he's semi-retiring due to city bylaws

MONTREAL — After more than 20 years of clacking cutlery in front of Ogilvy's department store, one of Montreal's best-known buskers says he's getting ready to hang up his spoons, at least part of the time.

Cyrille "Spoonman" Esteve has been a fixture of the city's downtown for years, but he says recent changes to municipal bylaws are making it too difficult for him to keep going.

"I turned 65 years old last month and I'm cashing out my pension," he said in a recent interview.

Montreal regulations stipulate that a street musician can only perform in the same spot for an hour, after which they must move at least 60 metres away.

Esteve, who uses a bicycle to pull a setup that includes a sound system, stool and spoons, says he finds it physically difficult to comply now that he's getting older.

He's also no longer able to sell souvenir wooden spoons due to another rule that limits performers to selling goods that are direct products of their performances, he says.

"If I have to move by 60 metres every 60 minutes, and I'm no longer allowed to sell spoons, it's not longer profitable," he said. 

"I'm working 10 hours a day to make maybe $15 a day."

On any given day, Esteve can be seen parked on a stool on his corner of Ste-Catherine street, clacking his wooden spoons along to the accordion and fiddle music that pours out from a small sound system behind him.

Many tourists love him and he's proud to have been named on lists describing him as "one of the most visible symbols of Montreal," despite having no particular musical knowledge when he started.

But he says he'll be stepping back after this month.

While he'll still play from time to time, he says the spoons will become a hobby rather than a job.

Instead, he's bought a Jack Russell puppy, and says he'll teach it how to play hockey and basketball while he panhandles and occasionally busks his familiar corners.

He's also continuing to fight to change the city bylaw, by way of a petition he started last year.

As of Sunday, the petition had 1,143 signatures.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press