What’s happened to Amsterdam’s cannabis coffee shops during Covid
Once crowded by too many tourists, the canals of Amsterdam continue to stand empty, even as the Netherlands eases travel restrictions. The infamous Red Light District is also mostly deserted. The Dutch capital remains a ghost town.
But what of that other famous Amsterdam institution? How have the city’s cannabis-vending coffee shops fared during these troubled times? Starved of out-of-town visitors, many who flocked to the city just to take advantage of liberal drug laws, have they survived?
And, in a world of face masks and concerns over indoor exhalations, have they even been permitted to remain open?
In fact, Dutch coffee shops never closed completely during the pandemic as they were classed as essential businesses, unlike restaurants, cafes and nightclubs.
But the cannabis cafes have been dealt a catastrophic blow due to a lack of the international tourists who were responsible for a large share of their revenue. And while some have adapted to a new way of life, there are fears from those who work in them that they’re in danger of vanishing.
“For business it’s been devastating,” says Nick, a worker at the city center Otherside coffee shop who did not want to give his surname for reasons of privacy.
Pre-pandemic, the cafe was usually full during the week, noisy and buzzing with atmosphere as people socialized with each other while smoking a marijuana cigarette or eating a cannabis brownie. but on a Thursday afternoon in early February, there’s just one person sitting inside, working on a laptop while sipping a cup of coffee and smoking a cannabis joint.
“In my coffee shop it’s been very empty and boring,” says Nick. “But other coffee shops [outside the center] are busier than ever due to takeaway demand. During coronavirus, everybody is sitting at home and smoking.”