Wednesday, May 21, 2008

IS AMSTERDAM TURNING INTO A PRUDISH BACKWATER?

FRANK SCIMONE, RADIO NETHERLANDS The owners of cafes in the centre of Amsterdam are again up in arms against what they say is the umpteenth attempt to turn the city into a prudish provincial backwater.

A majority of the Amsterdam district council 'Amsterdam Centrum' have voted in favor of a measure that would forbid customers from sitting outside on a terrace past midnight. A Dutch newspaper says the centre of Amsterdam is moving another step towards becoming a 'Staphorst on the Amstel'. Staphorst is considered the most strict and devout Calvinist town in the Netherlands.

Previously the district council ruled that customers cannot drink while standing. The free newspaper De Pers quotes an owner of a pub in Amsterdam, who says with a deep sigh: "Now we'll have to hire an extra employee to act as a sort of police officer who will walk around seeing to it that customers don't drink while standing. They will also have to ensure that customers are gone (from the terrace) by midnight. . . when they'd rather sit there until four." Earlier, the council ruled that outside terraces cannot be heated because it is a waste of energy and hence environmentally unfriendly.

In recent years the district council, which was founded in 2002, has come into conflict with the owners of pubs, cafes and nightclubs as well as members of the gay community who say that a mania for rules and regulations is making Amsterdam prudish, provincial and boring. . .

The Amsterdam City Council is also in the process of "cleaning up" the city. Permits for a large numbers of rooms in the Red Light District, where prostitutes stand behind windows, are being rescinded.

The rooms are being turned into fashion shops and the women replaced by mannequins in designer clothes. Recently the town council ordered the closure of the famous sex club Yab Yum as well as the live-sex theatre Casa Rosso.

One website which has collected thousands of signatures protesting against the council's policies writes: "This is where Rembrandt rose to fame, Michiel de Ruyter departed for his epic journeys, the great author Descartes wrote his best works and (besides Paris) the first city to erect lights. . . we were then progressive. Now. . . our city seems more like a provincial village than one with the allure of an international metropolis. . . The beautiful vibrant city centre is being literally paralyzed. A city is a city with all of its achievements, as well as its bad habits. . . When someone moves to the country he can't ask for a ban on fertilizer, roosters and mooing. . . Amsterdam should remain Amsterdam. A fantastic place where for centuries freedom and individual development have been of paramount importance."

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