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Amsterdam to introduce distance requirements for coffeeshops

The City of Amsterdam is to gradually introduce distance requirements for coffeeshops. In 2016, the remaining coffeeshops located within 250 metres of a secondary school or vocational college will be closed. Other Dutch cities such as The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht have already implemented such distance requirements. Amsterdam is introducing the regulation in phases in order to prevent any potential problems for the remaining coffeeshops. In addition, the City of Amsterdam will provide existing coffeeshop owners with adequate time, consideration and guidance to transform their enterprise into another type of business.

In 2008, 44 Amsterdam coffeeshop proprietors with an establishment situated within 250 metres of a secondary school or vocational college were notified that as of 1 January 2012, their presence would no longer be tolerated. Due to the uncertainty regarding the consequences of the national policy, the ruling was postponed until 1 January 2014. A recent measurement shows that 31 coffeeshop establishments still remain in close proximity to a school. The number of affected coffeeshops has fallen because some schools have moved or coffeeshops have closed. Additionally, more precise measurements have resulted in different distances recorded for some establishments. As of 1 January 2014, these 31 coffeeshops would have their tolerance declaration withdrawn. This is a relatively large number of establishments. The City of Amsterdam will therefore implement the distance requirements in three phases.

Phase 1: As of 1 July 2014, the tolerance declaration of 10 coffeeshops will expire because their shop façades can be seen from a school property.

Phase 2: As of 1 January 2015, the tolerance declaration of four coffeeshops will expire because they are situated within 150 metres (walking distance) of a school.

Evaluation: On 1 July 2015, the consequences of closing these coffeeshops will be evaluated. This procedure will look at the effects of the closures and the implementation of restricted opening hours. It is also essential to monitor how many coffeeshops are in Amsterdam. During the coming years it is expected that a number of coffeeshop establishments will close due to the general municipal by-laws for the hospitality industry (APV) or as a result of the Public Administration Act (Bibob). It is important that the City of Amsterdam retains an intricate system of coffeeshops.

Phase 3: As of 1 January 2016, dependent on the previous experiences, the remaining 17 coffeeshops situated within 150 and 250 metres (walking distance) from a school will have their tolerance declarations withdrawn.

Opening hours
In order to deter the use of soft drugs amongst students, the opening hours of the 31 coffeeshops affected by the distance requirements will be limited as of 1 January 2014. On weekdays, these coffeeshops may only be open from 18:00 to 01:00. This means the establishments will not be open during school hours or the immediate period after. No limitation on opening hours will be implemented during weekends or official school holiday periods.

Total number of coffeeshops in Amsterdam
There are 198 coffeeshops presently operating in Amsterdam. Following implementation of the distance requirements, the on-going initiative (Project 1012) in the Red Light District and the results of Bibob assessments, it is expected that this number will be reduced to approximately 160 coffeeshops in 2016. With such a number, Amsterdam will retain an intricate and adequate network of coffeeshops. This is also significantly more than The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam, which have approximately 90 coffeeshops combined.

Coffeeshop policy in the rest of the Netherlands
As of October 2013, Rotterdam is home to 41 coffeeshops. Sixteen establishments were closed there in 2009 due to the implementation of the distance requirements. In 2011, The Hague had 38 coffeeshops. A distance requirement of 500 metres was already introduced there in 1997 and the number of establishments has since halved. In 2011, Utrecht was home to 14 coffeeshops and had implemented a distance requirement of 250 metres.