Plans for an erotic centre in Amsterdam will be slimmed down to create fewer party venues, according to mayor Femke Halsema, while a small study has suggested half of Amsterdammers may oppose the plan.
Two years ago, a council majority voted to move a substantial number of window brothels from the Red Light District to a purpose built ‘erotic centre’ elsewhere.
But there has been fierce opposition to 11 proposed locations so far. An initial eight were shelved last year and district councils in both North and South Amsterdam have given a negative reception to three new suggested sites for a multi-purpose entertainment centre including 100 windows for sex workers.
Now the Amsterdam mayor – who is driving the project to improve the position of sex workers, reduce nuisance in the Red Light District and combat criminality – has said she will scale back the party aspect to accommodate criticisms. The latest projections, she added, suggest there will be 23 million overnight guests to Amsterdam this year and nuisance tourism is still a major challenge.
An initial artist’s drawing had suggested massive nightlife venues alongside a cultural programme featuring events such as tantric yoga lessons, painting classes and erotic entertainment. The city now plans to reduce the entertainment aspect to attract fewer visitors but is still pressing ahead with the three options, two near the RAI business centre and one at the NDSM wharf.
An online poll completed by 751 Amsterdammers, for local paper The Parool, has however suggested that 53% are against any kind of erotic centre, 20% support one and the rest are either neutral or unsure.
Some sex workers have meanwhile complained about more trouble from clients since Amsterdam brought in earlier closing hours. Closing times were brought back from 6am to 3am as part of a package of measures to reduce nuisance tourism in Amsterdam’s old centre, including a ban on smoking cannabis outdoors. Many in the sector oppose a centre, although some want more space for minority sex workers.
The mayor said that however that things had to change in the Red Light District. “The council is very aware of sometimes opposing views, objections and emotions,” she told councillors in a briefing this month.
“The many comments have led to the city executive proposing to sharpen the erotic centre programme by limiting the hospitality options… with the goal of reducing visitors. At the same time, the executive asks for understanding as it tries to find an answer to the huge challenge of keeping our beautiful city and city centre for every Amsterdammer.”
But some city residents oppose a single, large-scale centre, particularly in the wake of an investigation suggesting it would cost millions in taxpayer money. Cynthia Cournuejouls, a resident of Zuid who created a protest petition, told Dutch News: “There is no trade-off between the interests of Amsterdam and that of a neighbourhood where the erotic centre would come: both would benefit if it doesn’t come at all. It does not solve the problems it is trying to address, creates new problems for a neighbourhood and ensures more of the tourists we don’t want come to Amsterdam.”