As we reported earlier the smoking ban has also hit the pubs, clubs and restaurants in Amsterdam. Now, after almost a full year, we take a look how this ban has affected the nightlife of gays and lesbians in our city. And despite many gays and lesbian being avid smokers, the ban hasn’t disrupted the Amsterdam nightlife and brought about new and surprisingly romantic facets….
Basic rule – no smoking indoors
The ban is similar to smoking bans in Ireland, the US or France: no smoking indoors, except for special smoking rooms, which are totally separated from the main part of the bar of night-club. That poses a problem for many of the traditional Dutch bars and the smaller gay and lesbian bars: where to build a separate smoking room? De well-known bar De Spijker (link) made the decision to sacrifice part of it’s already small darkroom on the first floor. Many other bars don’t have that option however and smokers were forced to smoke outside, often in front of the bar.
Many bars have tried to create a welcoming place outside for their customers. The built sometimes semi permanent chairs, tables or even couches. They put up screens to protect the smokers from wind, rain or sun. And last but not least put out heaters or blankets to keep the queens and dykes warm in the cold Amsterdam climate.
Busier street-life, complaining neighbors
Because more people than before are standing outside the bars, street-life has become much more livelier. On the Zeedijk, the newest gay-street in Amsterdam, this has led to a whole new cruising experience around the bars De Engel, De Barderij and Queens Head, which are practically next door to each other. This makes walking or cycling around town at night a much more pleasant experience as the streets feel safer with all those people keeping an eye out for each other.
Neighbors are less enamored with this new development. In the old days they enjoyed a much quieter time at home. Only when the bars closed, there was a brief moment of noise on the street. Nowadays the sounds of people talking, debating and laughing is heard all night. ‘Clever’ clients now get a few extra drinks before the bars close down and stay out longer into the night to finish their drinks. Thus making it more difficult for the neighbors to get a good night sleep.
Smirting and feeling young
We asked some or our friends, what their personal experience as a smoker or non-smoker was in the past years. Overall, there is a more a division between the two groups. The smokers stay more and longer outdoors, while the non-smokers stay more inside. “I feel more inclined now to go out for a drink” a non-smoker told us. “In the beginning I stayed more at home, but I’m getting used to it and am going back to my old haunts” a lifelong smoker told us.
New is the phenomenon of smirting: smokers flirting with each other while having their nicotine quick outside. When it rains, they huddle closer together underneath the canopy. In place where bars supplied blankets to keep warm, people share a one and the smirting gets more physical…
“I feel like I’m fourteen again!”, a 50-something friend told me. “It’s like at high school: where you sneak outside and have a secret cigaret out of view of the teacher”. So apparently the smoking ban has a surprising way of rejuvenating the smokers among us.
All in all the gays and lesbians in Amsterdam seem to have found their new routine with this smoking ban. We are curious what your experiences are: send us a mail with your view!