Amsterdam’s gay sauna ‘Sauna Nieuwezijds’ has made it obligatory for guests to show identification on entrance. The measure has caused some confusion and controversy. Sauna Nieuwezijds took the measure in July, according to the website ‘For your own safety and ours’.
In this article the facts and some questions for the owner, Elard Diekman.
On the Sauna’s Facebook page, this raised some debate amongst customers. It lead to all kinds of speculations as to why the measure was taken, and debate about whether it was a good or bad decision.
In October 2013 we had an interview with Elard Diekman (owner of the sauna), just before the opening of Sauna Nieuwezijds. In the interview, he said he didn’t like to have a long list of house rules, and there were no plans for a door policy.
However, as it turns out, real life can be a bit of a cold shower.
Sauna NZ had to be clear about certain things that could not be tolerated, such as the use of certain drugs, or prostitution. It was hoped that by creating a good atmosphere and a high quality environment, clients would behave accordingly. Unfortunately, guests regularly do not deposit waste in waste bins, try to smoke secretly in toilets etc., there is drugs abuse and sometimes prostitution.
According to Elard Diekman, who we asked about this, GHB is definitely the drug that causes most problems. It is intended to make you horny, but it can lead to serious health problems. More than once, a client had to be whizzed to a hospital, unconscious or with heart problems. Often, GHB was involved, sometimes in combination with XTC.
On July 25 the Sauna management published a statement (in Dutch) on the Facebook page to give more explanation about the reasons for asking identification.
It mentions three reasons :
– if there is a (medical) emergency, it is pleasant to know the customer’s identity
– the age can be checked (below 18 you’re a minor and not allowed)
– the measure may ward off people with ‘bad intentions’.
In addition, Sauna NZ maintains a blacklist of guests who received a permanent ban. This list contains more than 50 persons, and guests who are on the list are also banned from Club Church. The reasons for a permanent ban can vary: drunken behaviour, drug abuse or dealing drugs, annoying behaviour for other guests, being taken to hospital results in a permanent ban in all cases, or prostitution.
The ID measure is also taken to be able to enforce the blacklist.
We talked to the owner about the issue – below are some questions and answers.
The management explicitly says that no copies are made of any documents. It also stresses that the measure has been taken in coordination with the police, to make sure it is all legal.
(Question for Elard Diekman: Do you know of any other clubs in Amsterdam that ask ID? A: No, I think we’re the only one in Amsterdam.)
It is generally known that clubs and bars etc. can loose their license if they get associated with drug abuse. As a bar/club owner you don’t want one of your clients being brought to a hospital, because the police keeps track of these incidents, and after too many incidents your venue may be closed.
Question: Now that the ID measure has been in effect for some time, do you have the impression it has the desired effect?
A: Yes, we have the impression it works. There seem to be less guests who are blacklisted.
There are also developments on the lighter and brighter side: it wasn’t expected that the Thermos Sauna would go bankrupt so soon. It has lead to a major increase in the number of sauna visitors. So much so, that men have to wait outside, to be let in if someone else leaves.
(Question for Elard Diekman: Are you involved in the takeover talks with Thermos Sauna? A: No, we are not.)
The maximum number of visitors is 250 officially, but in reality a maximum of about 220 persons is applied. Says Elard Diekman: we realize this is actually a bit too busy.
At busy times, Sauna NZ has a doorman. This is to keep the men waiting in line quiet (there are neighbours whose bedroom windows are above the sauna), and the doorman sometimes searches guests for alcohol or drugs.
There are ideas of enlarging the space for massage rooms, as the massage service is a success. Also, the video room may become larger.
According to Elard Diekman, the ID measure may be replaced by the creation of a closed club. Then you have to become a member, and can only get in with your membership card.
Question: Are there things that work well, above expectation?
A: We are very pleased with our concept of ‘Mellow Monday’. Young guys get in for just E 10, there are free foot rubs and free snacks. This appears to create a very pleasant, relaxed atmosphere.
Also, the ‘No towel night’ on Tuesdays work well. Guests are supposed to walk around completely naked, without towels covering your private parts. People like it, it creates a horny atmosphere, and that is what the sauna is all about, after all.