Amsterdam is facing resistance from sex workers, bartenders, and entrepreneurs as it tries to reduce the size of its red-light district and establish a legal alternative “erotic center.” City officials have introduced new measures to address issues that make the red-light district less attractive, such as noise limits and substance abuse. Mayor Femke Halsema proposes the creation of an “erotic center” outside the red-light district that would still allow legal prostitution. Halsema argues that the center would be safer for sex workers, even though they prefer to remain in the red-light district. The government has yet to decide on a location for the center, with a decision expected by early next year. Critics of the plan believe it would adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to the issue.

Legislation implemented in the spring includes requiring bars in the area to close by 2 a.m., sex workers to close their establishments by 3 a.m. instead of 6 a.m., and a ban on smoking marijuana in the streets. These rules have caused concern among local workers and businesses who argue that they have less time to earn the same amount of money needed to cover expenses. Additionally, Amsterdam voted to permanently close the windows of sex workers’ rooms to improve the overall appearance of the area and make it more attractive as a residential area.

Some politicians believe that Amsterdam needs to change its image as a place where activities that are prohibited elsewhere, such as drugs and prostitution, are allowed. They argue for a shift toward a more mature understanding of freedom as self-government rather than liberation from all taboos. Others claim that businesses are exploiting Amsterdam’s image as a place of unlimited possibility and anything-goes mentality. In 2019, tours of the red-light district were banned, which is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

The city of Amsterdam, with a local population of around 900,000 people, reportedly welcomed around 20 million visitors last year and is projected to have 30 million annual tourists by 2030. Authorities view certain types of tourism and offerings targeting specific groups as undesirable.

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