Amsterdam cheese shop forced to close for being too tourist-friendly

Jelisa Castrodale

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If you’ve been to Amsterdam recently, you probably did everything on the tourist’s checklist: you “oooh”ed softly at the tulips, you bought a stroopwafel and some cheese, and then you coasted on your rental bike while taking impeccably filtered Instagram photos. And, according to the municipality of Amsterdam itself, you’re part of the problem.

Last fall, the city announced that it would be cracking down on “ticket shops, bike rental companies, cheese shops” and other retailers that tend to cater to tourists. Amsterdam residents had become increasingly concerned that their historic city center was becoming “Disneyfied.” (Their word). “By not allowing new tourist shops to open we make sure our city center remains attractive and liveable for Amsterdammers and our visitors,” Kajsa Ollongren, the deputy mayor, said. “Tourists are very welcome, but we want to avoid mass tourism taking over entire streets and neighborhoods.”

The first casualty in the city’s new Locals Only approach was the Amsterdam Cheese Shop; last week, a court ruled in favor of the city, overturning the shop’s final appeal and ordering it to close its doors. Among the cheese shop’s offenses? Speaking English in the store. The court also said that one of the shop’s slogans, “Our cheeses are ready to fly,” signified that it wanted to attract visiting tourists. The store’s owner, Quirijn Kolff, essentially said “Oh, come onnn!”

“If you [are] here, English is the language spoken by most people,” Kolff told The Guardian. “We are an international community, especially in Amsterdam. We communicate in English. Maybe that’s globalization for you, but this decision feels like an appeal to nativism, preaching to the base.”

Kolff, who owns four other branches of the Amsterdam Cheese Shop in the city, signed a 15-year lease before the ban was even written – and it’s a decision he says he wouldn’t have made if he knew that the new shop would have to close. (That may or may not be a bad thing, since Amsterdam seems to be approaching Peak Cheese: according to CBS, the country’s national statistics office, the number of cheese shops in the city has increased by 80% in the past decade).

"Must the Amsterdam Cheese Company stick a 'no tourists allowed' sign on its door?" Kolff’s attorney asked. The court basically said that it doesn’t care what sign goes in the door, as long as it doesn’t say “Amsterdam Cheese Company.” And, because Kolff could open any other kind of store in the space, the city says it does not owe him any damages or reimbursement.

Well, he can’t open any kind of store. The court made that pretty clear.

Jelisa Castrodale

About Jelisa Castrodale

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