Many Amsterdam brothels to close as council cracks down

Fri, Sep 7, 2012, 01:00

AMSTERDAM CITY council has taken the first step towards cleaning up the most popular red-light district in Europe by voting to close at least 100 of the famous windows where legally registered prostitutes sell their services – and which attract millions of curious tourists every year.

In a move almost certain to lead to a confrontation in the courts with wealthy sex industry proprietors, the council also decided to rezone large sections of De Wallen, as it is known in Dutch, and shut down and evict brothels and other sex businesses which fail to co-operate.

The get-tough policy will come into effect in parallel with a new law banning tourists from the city’s “coffee shops”, where cannabis and other drugs can be bought and consumed legally. The law is in force in Maastricht – and will apply nationwide from January 1st next.

The red-light district occupies some 6,500sq m of prime real estate in the oldest and most picturesque part of Amsterdam. The deputy mayor, Lodewijk Asscher, who is overseeing the clean-up, said its enormous value made a legal challenge inevitable.

“De Wallen is big business, and sex industry bosses are always ready for a fight,” he said. “Even before the outline zoning proposals were completed, we were aware that lawyers had been briefed and were preparing to pick holes in them wherever possible.”

The district has 400 red-light windows, and Mr Asscher said that should be reduced by 100 by 2017. Centres for the homeless and drug addicts, which have gravitated towards this area over the years, will be re-located.

The medium-term aim is to replace the sex businesses with upmarket hotels, shops, galleries and restaurants, and to restore historic buildings. The council says it doesn’t want to force prostitution out – but it does want to cut down on crime.