terça-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2018

Why are Amsterdam's cannabis 'coffeeshops' closing? / Amsterdam has become ‘unlivable’ as residents fight back to stop ‘Disneyfication’ of city

Este artigo e o que se segue, foram publicados em 2016.
Desde aí, as medidas para desencorajar o turismo low cost / low flying só têm vindo a acentuar-se.
Amsterdão quer mudar de imagem e desencorajar um tipo de Turismo massificado, saturante e desinteressante no plano humano e económico.
Em época de Globalização Galopante e de Turismo Massificado cabe às cidades fazerem escolhas estratégicas . Perante uma quantidade avassaladora e desinteressante, é imperativo fazer uma escolha explícita pela Qualidade. E isso implica Governação Estratégica.

Why are Amsterdam's cannabis 'coffeeshops' closing?

“Within five to ten years coffeeshops could be finished,” says Mr de Loor

Gavin Haines, travel writer, amsterdam
5 DECEMBER 2016 • 9:55AM

I’m in Mellow Yellow, Amsterdam’s oldest coffeeshop. Beneath a thin veil of smoke, groups of men and women - young, old and of various nationalities - sit at wooden tables, chatting, joking and sharing spliffs. Reggae flows from nearby speakers, while a coffee machine noisily grinds beans behind the bar.

After finding fertile ground in a decidedly grey area of Dutch drug law, Mellow Yellow opened in 1967, blazing a trail for hundreds of other coffeeshops to follow.

Next year this historic establishment should be celebrating its 50th anniversary, but instead it will be pulling down the shutters for the final time: by order of the mayor, Mellow Yellow is to cease trading on January 1, 2017. This joint is going out.

 “Mellow Yellow was the first coffeeshop in the world and now they want to close it,” says owner, Johnny Petram.

“I serve thousands of people every day; tourists and locals. I have Israelis and Palestinians in here smoking together. Even people who don’t smoke come here to have their photo taken. It’s part of the history of Amsterdam.”

But now Mellow Yellow looks set to be history as the mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, oversees the final phase of a government-backed programme to shut down any coffeeshop within 250m of a school. Mellow Yellow is one of 28 establishments to be affected by the initiative, which is allegedly aimed at deterring youngsters from taking up cannabis.

Mr Petram, 33, has hired a lawyer to help him fight the closure of Mellow Yellow. His main line of defence is that the nearby school is actually a hairdressing academy for fee-paying students, most of whom are 18 years old.

 “They are closing the world’s oldest coffeeshop because of a salon,” claims Mr Petram, whose personal future is at stake. “If we close on January 1, I will still have to pay €7,000 rent every month. How am I going to afford that if this place shuts? I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Acting with unusual candour, the mayor’s office told Telegraph Travel that it doesn’t believe closing coffeeshops will stop young people from taking up cannabis.

The city hall council has pushed through a programme to "clean up" the red light district, forcing a further 22 coffeeshops to close
However, it is pushing the directive through as part of a deal with the national government that will exempt Amsterdam from enforcing the so-called Weed Pass, which prohibits non-Dutch nationals from visiting coffeeshops.

The Weed Pass has already been rolled out in other parts of the Netherlands, but Amsterdam has hitherto resisted the scheme, claiming it would lead to an explosion in street dealing.

“If we don’t strike a deal we would be forced to enforce the Weed Pass - and then we will have big problems,” says Jasper Karman, the mayor’s spokesperson, defending the recent closures. 

Critics claim kowtowing to the government was a mistake: with an election looming next year, there is no guarantee a new administration would honour any agreements made with the previous government.

Detractors also claim the initiative, though touted as a nationwide scheme, specifically targetted Amsterdam.

“Other cities in Holland have already closed most of their coffeeshops, so this law doesn’t even affect them - it was aimed at Amsterdam,” says August de Loor, a government advisor and founder of the Bond Van Cannabis Detaillisten (BCD) union for coffeeshop owners. “The city has been tricked.”

There is one point that all sides can agree on: that half of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops have closed in the last two decades. Back in the Nineties there were as many as 350 of the cafes scattered around the city, today there are just 175.

Some have closed naturally, others have been forced to fold because their owners violated the strict rules governing coffeeshops. Most of the recent closures, however, are down to local policy; in addition to the “school rule”, the city hall council has also pushed through a programme to "clean up" the red light district, forcing a further 22 coffeeshops to close.

 “The council wants to increase the quality of the city centre, but only for rich people,” laments Mr de Loor. “I’m all for increasing the quality of the city centre, but not by kicking out coffeeshops.”

The local government made its case for gentrifying the red light district to Telegraph Travel.

“We had an enormous amount of coffeeshops, sex shops and brothels in the area and we wanted to make it more diverse and more attractive to a broader public,” says Mr Karman. “We wanted to create a better balance.”

Though considered a form of lowbrow entertainment by some, coffeeshops play a vital role in Dutch tourism: according to city hall figures, 25-30 per cent of tourists in Amsterdam visit a coffeeshop.

 “Within five to ten years coffeeshops could be finished,” says Mr de Loor
Coffeeshops are also part of the social fabric of Amsterdam.

“They are meeting points, like pubs; they bring people together and help keep the city cosy,” says Mr de Loor. “They are part of our culture, something unique to Holland.”

According to Mr de Loor, the closure of coffeeshops in Amsterdam is having an adverse effect on those that remain, as well as pushing more smokers onto the street. 

“The coffeeshops that have survived are getting busier and they are kicking out the chairs - kicking out the social part of the coffeeshop - to essentially become cannabis supermarkets,” he said. “You go in, buy your weed and f*** off. That’s a terrible development.”

Perhaps the biggest concern for Amsterdam’s coffeeshops, however, is the threat of a new national government. After Brexit and Trump, locals are increasingly fearful that a right-wing party could prevail at next year’s elections, thus spelling the end of coffeeshops as we know them.

“Within five to ten years coffeeshops could be finished,” says Mr de Loor. “That’s my most negative scenario.”

City hall says it has no plans to close any more coffeeshops in Amsterdam; it even moots the idea of opening others in the future, assuming the government doesn’t impose further restrictions.

That’s scant consolation for Mr Petram and his customers. Unless city hall changes its mind soon, Mellow Yellow will slide into the history books.

“There are other coffeeshops, but they don’t have the same atmosphere,” says Rasta, a regular at Mellow Yellow. “I don’t know where I’d go if this place closed.”

Amsterdam has become ‘unlivable’ as residents fight back to stop ‘Disneyfication’ of city
Residents fear that neighbourhoods are being taken over by tourists

Gavin Haines, amsterdam
2 DECEMBER 2016 • 11:28AM

It’s Friday morning and the invasion has already begun. Armed with suitcases and heady expectations, a steady stream of tourists are trickling out of Amsterdam’s Central Station, among them stag parties from Britain, whose mischievous smiles and boisterous behaviour suggests a hedonistic weekend lies ahead.

According to the Dutch tourist board more than 5.2 million tourists descended on Amsterdam last year, a fifth of whom came from Britain. That’s a lot of visitors for any destination to deal with, but it’s particularly challenging for a diminutive city like Amsterdam, which has a population of just 800,000.

“It’s unlivable here at the weekend,” laments local resident, Bert Nap, whose mezzanine apartment overlooks Achterburgwal canal. “I have a small place in the country and I go there at the weekend just to escape.”

Mr Nap, an author, lives in his cosy canalside flat with his wife and daughter. Once upon a time the building was part of a convent; ironically it’s now part of Amsterdam’s notorious red light district.

But it’s not the local sex workers that Mr Nap blames for bringing the neighbourhood down, it’s tourists. Or to be more specific, Airbnb. 

“The neighbourhood has changed from a resident-based neighbourhood to a tourist-based neighbourhood,” he says. “We have different neighbours every week.”

Those who are left are not living in their own neighbourhood anymore
Bert Nap, resident
Mr Nap represents a growing number of residents in Amsterdam who believe tourism in the city is becoming unsustainable, as more homeowners turf tenants out to make way for high-yield holidaymakers.

“There’s a feeling that those who are left are not living in their own neighbourhood anymore,” he sighs. “Amsterdam is starting to look like a playground for visitors; what people call Disneyfication.” 

The local police has also expressed fears that crowds in Amsterdam are swelling to the point of being dangerous.

Similar scenarios are playing out in cities like Venice, San Francisco and Barcelona, where peer-to-peer accommodation websites such as Airbnb are being blamed for undermining the character of those destinations.

“The originality of the city centre is slipping away,” Mr Nap tells me. “Things are getting out of balance.”

But not for much longer, perhaps: yesterday Amsterdam and Airbnb signed a landmark agreement that could have implications that are felt way beyond the Dutch capital.

Under the new agreement, Airbnb has agreed to introduce a mechanism on its website that will make it impossible for users in Amsterdam to rent their properties out for longer than 60 days per annum.

The Airbnb agreement could have implications that are felt way beyond Amsterdam
Airbnb has also agreed to implement a new online tool for people living near its properties in Amsterdam, allowing them to raise concerns about a listing, including noise complaints.

The city government, meanwhile, has agreed to introduce a new 24-hour hotline for residents to raise concerns about Airbnb properties. Cities around the world will be paying close attention.

“The pioneering collaboration between Airbnb and Amsterdam is unique to the city,” said a government spokesperson.  “Amsterdam will now seek similar agreements with other accommodation platforms.”

In what was perhaps a swipe at other cities around the world - including San Francisco, which has taken Airbnb to court - the accommodation site commended Amsterdam for its collaborative approach.

“The new measures are an example to the world and demonstrate the positive results that can be achieved when policymakers and Airbnb work together on our shared goals of making cities better places to live, work and visit,” said James McClure, Airbnb general manager for Northern Europe.

In addition to reining in Airbnb, the city government told Telegraph Travel that it is exploring other measures to halt the so-called Disneyfication of Amsterdam, including a moratorium on new hotels.

We have decided to put a stop to new hotels in the city centre
Krista Verweij, city spokesperson
“We are trying to get a grip on growth,” says Sebastiaan Meijer, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office. “In some part of the city we are not allowing any new hotels and in other parts of the city we will be really strict.”

The local government also plans to move the cruise terminal outside the city centre and prohibit sightseeing coaches from driving through downtown Amsterdam. It is also banning the so-called “beer bikes” that have popped up in cities across Europe.

“There are a lot of other things we are looking at including putting more [law enforcement] officers on the streets,” said Meijer. “We are being more strict on people who misbehave.”

The latter measure is a response to unruly stag groups who, much to the chagrin of residents, have become a common feature in the city.

“I’m not against tourists, but I want to see some sort of normality,” says Mr Nap. “For a long time we have been cast aside as people who are moaning. Now the council is listening.

 Residents fear that neighbourhoods are being taken over by tourists

“It recognises that [tourism] is not self-regulating and that there has to be regulation from above.”

Mr Nap welcomes the agreement struck between Amsterdam and Airbnb, but he is concerned that some residents will circumnavigate the new rules by listing their properties on multiple rental platforms.

“I don’t think it’s strict enough, but we shall see,” he says. “The inner city has reached saturation point; the cement of Amsterdam is weakening.”

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