Tuesday 11 May 2021

Five floors of ‘entertainment’: Amsterdam publishes vision of erotic centre

Photo: Depositphotos.com

A sex show, bars, 100 small rooms and 5,000 square metres of space will form Amsterdam’s new erotic centre, according to a council report.

The ‘market consultation’ document, to be discussed with both sex workers and interested commercial parties, suggests the shape of the future erotic centre and nine possible locations from the edge of the Oud Zuid/Rai exhibition centre to Hamerkwartier in Amsterdam North.

It is part of a plan, voted for by the city council in January, to radically change Amsterdam’s red light district by relocating sex work elsewhere. Mayor Femke Halsema has also stressed that the erotic centre needs to ‘improve the position of sex workers’ and do more to combat human trafficking.

The plans follow years of complaints about extreme nuisance by local residents in the city centre, as well as signs of exploitation and forced work within the sex industry in Amsterdam.

Pay-to-enter

According to the report, the ‘concept’ for the erotic centre will be a space with 100 small rooms for sex workers to ply their trade, either via internet bookings or face-to-face, through windows or doors, as things currently work in the red light district.

There will be two bars or restaurants, an ‘erotic entertainment’ venue such as a pole dancing club or sex show, which does not offer paid sex services, as well as at least four reasonable-sized rooms for sex workers to meet and relax. The complex will include space for services offering care, as well as regulators such as police and the city council, plus an erotic shop.

It is expected that the building will sit on a 1,000 square metre plot and comprise five storeys of sexual activity and entertainment. The lobby is likely to have the bars and restaurants, erotic shop and entertainment, and a separate ‘zone’ will be for the paid sex services. The venue will be open to sex workers who are ‘men, women and trans people,’ according to the document, with divisions between these to provide anonymity for visitors.

‘The erotic centre is not aimed at the kind of “leering tourist” who often comes to the red light district,’ the document adds. ‘This kind of visitor only comes to look and does not become a client. The intention is to discourage this kind of tourist via one, monitored entry to the erotic centre, possibly with an entry price. The erotic centre is only for adults.’

Nine possible locations  Image: Amsterdam city council report

Divisive

Although the council backs the plan, the issue is divisive. Olav Ulrich, chair of a foundation that aims to preserve the area, d’Oude Binnenstad wrote a letter to local paper the Parool earlier this year urging the mayor to speed up the plans, saying that the look-but-don’t-buy tourism was even chasing away sex worker clients. ‘Through years of global marketing, the red light district has achieved its own downfall…as…Disneyland for adults,’ he wrote. ‘For sex workers who want to stay in the “business”, an erotic centre is an excellent, safe alternative. Pricking the big red balloon at last will only be good for De Wallen and for the city.’

Many in the sex work sector, however, have fiercely opposed closing down operations in De Wallen, the ancient area named after the old city walls. The Prostitution Information Centre (PIC), based there and campaigning for sex worker rights, tweeted: ‘Only 100 work spaces? They have closed more than that in De Wallen already. Leave De Wallen in peace, but also give us the option of this kind of centre, because more work spaces are needed in the Netherlands, not fewer.’

The market positioning document will go to consultation with potential commercial partners in the months ahead and will be published in July or August. A shortlist of potential locations for the centre includes the Amstel, an unknown location ‘on the water’ and the newly developed Haven-Stad in the West port area of the city.

‘Delighted’

Successive Amsterdam mayors have tried to solve issues around rampant tourism in the red light district without success, however.

A previous project under former mayor Job Cohen to buy up windows cost millions of euros, while an experiment started under late mayor Eberhard van der Laan to encourage prostitutes to run their own brothel, My Red Light, closed for good earlier this year.

But Dennis Boutkan, tourism spokesman for Amsterdam’s PvdA labour party, said that he was delighted with the new plans. ‘Amsterdam is going to take the next step to change workplaces for sex workers and I’m very curious how the market is going to react,’ he told DutchNews.nl. ‘This is much needed: we need to change the city centre into a more balanced area, with greater liveability,’

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