Summer’s glittering, fantastical movie musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” proved that solving life’s mysteries can be done by breaking out into ABBA songs in a pair of bell bottoms, lining up along a boardwalk, pointing at your friends and exclaiming in perfect sing-song, that they are, in fact, a dancing queen, young and sweet, only 17.
But could you have your own “Mamma Mia” moment here in Austin? It depends — it could end in applause, or land you in cuffs and stuck with a fine.
Breaking out into song and dance is legal in Austin, depending on where it’s done. Blocking roadways could result in a charge of pedestrian in the roadway, or a fine of $247 or $170 if paid early, said Austin police Lt. Dustin Lee, who works in operations for the downtown area command, where an impromptu dance number in the street might draw the biggest crowd but also create the worst traffic jam. Usually though, it does not escalate to that level, he said.
“Cops are going to show up and say, ‘Hey, crazy singing lady, get out of the street,’” Lee said. “If you went, ‘Oh, OK,’ then got out of the street, then that would probably be it.”
Those charged with being a pedestrian in the roadway, a Class C misdemeanor, face a maximum fine of $500, according to the Texas Penal Code.
In the live music capital of the world, sidewalks — even crosswalks — are fair game for spontaneous choreography and singing to your heart’s content, as long as you’re not blocking other pedestrians from using the path, Lee said.
“Even if you have 10 people or something, and they decided to do a flash mob on the sidewalk, if they’re not completely blocking the sidewalk, there’s nothing for the cops to worry about,” he said.
Taking your musical dreams indoors to a bar or restaurant could result in an arrest depending on how the establishment is run, Lee said. If a bar has a ban on singing and dancing, and a visitor decides to bust a move or sing a note, bar employees could call police and ask for the visitor’s removal, Lee said.
If you refuse to leave because you haven’t completed your big dance number, you could be charged with criminal trespassing, he said. Additionally, businesses and residences have to keep sounds below 75 decibels, he said.
The easiest way to pretend you’re living in a musical reality is to double-check with an establishment before performing. If an establishment, like Whole Foods, gives you permission to use their parking lot, the police won’t have to intervene, Lee said.
“Which, by the way, would be a great world that we lived in if everyone broke out into song, that would be awesome,” Lee said.