Lonely Planet Writer

Amsterdam's oldest coffee shop is closing down under new city rules

Amsterdam’s oldest coffee shop is closing down and there are fears that many of the city’s other cannabis-friendly places will soon be joining it.

Mellow Yellow is Amsterdam's oldest coffee shop but will cease trading in 2017.
Mellow Yellow is Amsterdam’s oldest coffee shop but will cease trading in 2017. Image by Peter Adams

Mellow Yellow would be turning 50 next year but instead, it will cease trading on 1 January. Despite the fact that it’s Amsterdam’s oldest coffee shop – where cannabis is allowed to be sold and consumed – the popular establishment has been affected by the decision to close any coffee shop within 250 metres of a school.

The new regulations are designed to prevent young people starting to smoke cannabis. However, Mellow Yellow’s owner Johnny Petram is fighting the decision. He argues that the school in question is an academy for hairdressers and many of the students are over 18. He told the Telegraph: “They are closing the world’s oldest coffeeshop because of a salon. I serve thousands of people every day; tourists and locals. Even people who don’t smoke come here to have their photo taken. It’s part of the history of Amsterdam.”

The city of Amsterdam is enforcing the government-backed regulations in an effort to avoid having to implement the Weed Pass that has taken effect in other parts of the Netherlands, making it illegal for travellers to visit the famous coffee shops. While travellers can still use marijuana in the capital, there are far less options for them to do so.

Since the 1990s, the number of coffee shops in Amsterdam has dropped to half, from 350 to 175. Some of these closures have been affected by stricter rules, including an effort by the city hall to ‘clean up’ the red light district by shutting some establishments. Despite this, coffee shops and cannabis culture are still a big tourist draw for Amsterdam. The city hall estimates that 25-30% of tourists pay a visit to a coffee shop during their stay in the city.