Amsterdam fights to keep its dwindling brown cafes
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Amsterdam’s traditional “bruine kroegen” or brown bars, need protection and should be included in the Unesco cultural heritage list, Amsterdam city council has decided.

Councillors voted on Thursday to give the bars protected status within the city, but agreed with local PvdA leader Lian Heinhuis, who said they should also be included in the Unesco intangible heritage list because of their social significance.

Bruine kroegen, characterised by their usually dark interior, carpet-covered tables and limited snacks, are “part of the soul of Amsterdam”, Heinhuis said, but more and more are disappearing.

High rents, an elderly clientele, and changing habits are contributing to the decline, trendwatcher Wouter Verkerk told broadcaster NOS.

Famous brown bars, such as Rooie Nelis in the Jordaan and Café Verhoeff on Zeedijk have already gone to “make room for the men with deep pockets,” Heinhuis told the Parool.

“As one Amsterdam owner once told me ‘the cashification of the city is becoming more and more evident’. The identity of the city should not depend on who has the most money.”

The council now plans to make an inventory of the bars and monitor how they are faring. Giving them protected, or listed status means the interior of the bars are subject to strict rules and cannot be changed without good reason.

Heritage status will also protect the bars, Heinhuis said. “The two together should guarantee that brown bars, which are of a historical, cultural and socio-economic importance, will not disappear from our streets.”

There are currently just three Dutch traditions on the Unesco cultural heritage list – flower and fruit corsos (parades), falconry and the craft of the miller. Winning acceptance is a long and complex process.

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