Brothel owners take Amsterdam to court over threatened closures

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — A group of brothel owners representing nearly a third of the “windows” prostitutes in Amersterdam’s famous Red Light District have filed legal protests against a city decision to revoke their licenses.

“The court has told the city that all operators of the 37 cafe and brothel businesses who have received closure notices — are fighting it,” the city said in a statement. “The city…will wait with further measures until the court has ruled.”

The case will likely be heard in mid-January, the statement said.

The Dutch government legalized prostitution in 2000 to make it easier to tax and regulate. But prostitutes remain a magnet for crime and Amsterdam city authorities have been conducting a financial review of all property owners in the district since early last year.

On Nov. 30, the city notified the owners of 37 brothels and sex show venues that they would be shut down because of suspected involvement in money laundering. The brothels represent around 300 prostitutes, a third of the district’s “windows” prostitutes.

Women in lingerie stand behind windows, tapping their fingers against the glass to attract customers.

Representatives of the brothel owners — including “Fat” Charlie Geerts, who owns 20 of the brothels slated for closure — said they would appeal. Geerts argued that documentation problems are caused by banks refusing to do business with him.

The city’s statement conceded that point was partially true.

“At this moment, banks are reluctant to finance prostitution businesses, which has the result that these businesses are forced to do business with private financiers,” it said. “Women who work in the prostitution branch should have the opportunity to get a normal mortgage just like other business people.”

Advocates for prostitutes say the real problem in the district isn’t money laundering, but street crime caused by pimps and drug addicts.

The narrow streets near Amsterdam’s center have been known as a hangout for prostitutes since the city was the hub of a global trading empire during the Netherlands’ 17th century Golden Age.

Even before formal legalization, prostitution in the district was tolerated by authorities and had become a major tourist attraction.

The area is home to numerous popular bars, as well as brothels and sex clubs. By some estimates, nearly a third of tourists who visit Amsterdam visit the Red Light District — but most just go to look.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday December 30, 2006.
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