(NOTE: the opening weekend of Sauna Nieuwezijds has been postponed to Friday December 6, at noon.)
Amsterdam is expecting a major new player in the gay scene: Sauna Nieuwezijds (NZ) has announced its arrival in the heart of Amsterdam, due to open the end of November.
This made us curious about who is behind this: so we met with Elard Diekman.
How did you get the idea to create a new gay sauna?
E.D: I have been busy with Club Church, together with my partners Richard Keldoulis and Wim Peeks. As I had some time on my hand, we thought ‘what else can we offer Amsterdam?’.
I’m a fan of gay saunas, I visit them all over the world, whenever I can. They’re my favourite places to cruise.
Other cities in Europe and elsewhere have more than one gay bath, whereas Amsterdam has only one (the Thermos day/night sauna).
So, that was the answer: a new gay sauna.
I think Amsterdam, and particularly the younger generation, is no longer used to going to the sauna, which is different in other cities in Europe.
Basically, I just believe there is room for improvement and more players in this market. I think all sauna visitors, and Amsterdam as a whole, can benefit – competition in this market will mean an enrichment for everyone.
What did you do before?
E.D. I studied to become a teacher of Dutch and English…. however, I never ended up before a class. I have been very active in organizing all sorts of gay events, such as sex parties in the Argos and the Eagle. Also, I helped organize the May 5th parties on the Homomonument, and set up the Pink Point kiosk near the Westerkerk, together with my husband Richard Keldoulis (a.k.a. Jennifer Hopeless).
What do you think is important when running a sauna?
E.D.: One of the most important things will be that our clients will feel they are really welcomed. They should feel pampered, in a pleasant, horny atmosphere. Being friendly, approachable, welcoming is a very basic value in our business culture, and we want this right from the start. I just hate it when staff in restaurants or cafes are arrogant or indifferent! Through our experience with Club Church we know how important this is, and we’re going to copy this to the new sauna.
On our tv screens there will only be gay porn.
Other than that, the sauna will have nothing special – except I want to have it all the good characteristics of the saunas I have seen all over the world.
Will you have any drugs policies?
E.D.: Drugs use and abuse is very much part of life in Amsterdam. We don’t allow any drug dealing, and as long as guests do not influence the atmosphere negatively, we have no problem with private use. We invest a lot into our contacts with the police and the City’s health authorities. Fortunately, we can draw on experience with this in Club Church. Drug-related incidents can unfortunately not be avoided, several times per year we have to call an ambulance to pick somebody up. We find it important to keep communicating with the authorities about how we work on further prevention. And we don’t wait until the police comes to us, we contact them if something happens.
Our staff members are all trained in how to deal with drug incidents.
This is the future lounge/entrance area.
Will you have any door policies?
E.D.: No, not really, we’re not going to select men on any basis. I’m thinking even to allow women in on some evenings. We have some experience with this in Club Church – there are some women who like this, and there are men who like the idea too.
And what about safe sex?
E.D.: Here too, we have experience with the sex parties in Club Church. We actively encourage people to practice safe sex, but we can’t police it. One of the things we will do, is have condom dispensers (with free condoms) at convenient places – you will not have to go to the bar to get them. They will be readily available at the places where you can have sex. We have our own custom-designed condom dispensers, so that it is easy for our guests to get them, and not so easy to to get too many.
Are there any policies about prostitution?
E.D.: Yes! Prostitution is not allowed. Offering sex for money is in breach of our license, and we encourage our guests to complain if they see any prostitution. We facilitate consensual sex, but we are not a ‘sex venue’.
(Some background: Amsterdam is trying to minimize the number of brothels in the 1012 postal code area. In most parts of this postal code, companies that offer sex for money (so-called ‘seks-inrichtingen’ or sex venues) will not get a license. Brothel owners have complained in the press that they didn’t get a license, whereas Sauna Nieuwezijds got a license without a problem – and aren’t they a sex venue too? The answer is no: a company is only a sex venue if they offer sex for money.)
Similarly, we will offer massage services, but without ‘happy ending’. This would be the same as offering sex for money, so we’re not going to do that.
And modern technology…. WiFi? Smartphones?
E.D.: There will be free WiFi in the lockers area, but not in the other areas. We want to encourage a socializing atmosphere, without everybody tapping on a smartphone.
I hope we don’t have to have any hard rules about filming, but if necessary, we’ll intervene.
How is your relationship with local politics?
E.D.: Good! They’ve seen how we run Club Church, and they like what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I’m very glad we can build on the goodwill Club Church has already created for us.
There is a financial crisis going on, banks are reluctant to finance start-ups. Did you have any trouble getting start-up money?
E.D.: The banks were not easy. Although we set up the sauna in a separate limited liability company, the bank demanded all sorts of guarantees, including all of us being personally financially liable (which is contrary to the concept of a limited liability company), we eventually decided not to make use of the offer.
Fortunately, there were enough private investors who wanted to support this start-up, thanks to the goodwill we created with the success of Club Church.
I am super proud that this new sauna is financed without the banks or beer breweries!
Have there been comments from your future neighbours?
E.D.: The comments are generally positive. On top of the sauna there are about 40 apartments. We don’t expect our guests to be noisy, or otherwise a nuisance. The standard license for this building also allows for a night club, so I think the people who live here can be happy!
What date will you be open?
E.D.: We have already experienced a delay, so we had to postpone the opening with a month to the end of November. I can’t give an exact date, but right now everything is on track, and everybody is working hard. When we know the exact date, we’ll make sure everybody knows!
We’ll have a dress-up opening (mother also has to be there!) and a dress down opening for our future clientele.
– Address: Nieuwezijds Armsteeg 95
– Opening hours: 7 days a week, weekends 24/7
– Website: http://saunanieuwezijds.nl
– Capacity: max. 260 persons
– Size: 500 sq. meter (about 1/3 of size of Thermos Sauna)
– Staff: 15
– Private cabins: 18
– Finnish sauna
– Steam sauna
– Free condoms
– Free WiFi in the lockers area
– Toilet for disabled available
– Everything is ground floor
– Small food served in lounge area
– Personal douche tubes for anal hygiene for sale
– Smoking room integrated in lounge area
– Gloryhole Carousel: multiple walls with holes in one area.
– Discounted parking in the Crowne Plaza hotel parking garage next door