Wednesday 21 April 2021

Cafe owners, sex workers and market stall holders plan lockdown protests

Amsterdam’s red light district. Credit: Alex Nicholls-Lee

Cafe and bar owners, sex workers and market stall holders have all added their voices to calls on the government to further relax the coronavirus rules.

One campaign group, made up of 65 chapters of Dutch hospitality industry lobby KHN, is calling on cafes and restaurants to throw open their doors next Tuesday in protest, while sex workers say they will take a ‘peepshow on wheels’ to The Hague if they are not able to open on March 3.

And on Wednesday, market stall holders selling non-food products started legal action against the government because they are not allowed to open either. ‘We don’t understand why non-food is not welcome at markets,’ spokeswoman Evelyn Bethume told the Parool.

Rebel bar owners plan to open on Tuesday because of the ‘lack of future perspective,’ spokesman Johan de Vos told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant. But cafe owners are also angered by the images of ‘masses of people eating ice cream and the overcrowded parks’, he said.

The same group of bar owners threatened to reopen earlier this year but decided against the move. ‘That was because the care system was at its limits,’ he said. ‘But a lot of bar and cafe owners say we can’t continue like this. Something has to be done.’

Sex workers too are angry that hairdressers and masseurs can start work again from March 3, but that they must remain closed. Prime minister Mark Rutte’s comments about sex workers having to get very close to their clients, and the risk that entails, are wrong, spokeswoman Moira Mona said.

‘Sex workers are professionals and have always protected themselves against bacteria and viruses,’ she said. ‘It is simply ridiculous that we don’t have the same rights as other workers.’

In addition, some 170 fitness centres around the country, closed since mid-December, are planning to offer open air classes on Saturday because they too feel they have an important role to play in keeping people fit and healthy.

On Wednesday, a majority of MPs urged the government to rethink its decision not to reopen cafe terraces.

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