Why Can't an Amsterdam Coffeeshop Sell Alcohol, Too?

Detail of joint of cannabis and cup of coffee at Amsterdam coffeeshop
Getty Images/Iain Masterton

According to the Dutch government's regulations for coffeeshops, an establishment cannot sell cannabis products and also sell alcohol. There used to be a few coffeeshops that did double as pub-like places, selling beer. But in April 2007, they were forced to decide between selling cannabis products and alcohol.

So, Where Can I Smoke and Drink in Amsterdam?

Of course, with all regulations come loopholes for those rules. Because the law focuses on the sales of cannabis and alcohol, but not necessarily the consumption of them, there are some bars and cafes that are openly "smoker-friendly."

One of the best examples of this is Barney's Uptown, where you can enjoy beer, wine or spirits while smoking a joint because they don't sell cannabis. (To purchase that, just head across the street to Barney's Coffeeshop.)

A similar set-up is found at Kandinsky, another option in the city center, which features a smoker-friendly bar directly across the street. Near the Vondelpark, the acclaimed DJ café Kashmir Lounge, with its evocative, South Asia-inspired interior, serves alcohol, snacks, and tapas just across the street from its twin Kashmir Coffee Shop.

There are also smoker-friendly bars that aren't affiliated with any coffeeshop, where patrons can freely smoke joints on the premises. Quite a few coffeeshops did decide to reopen as bars in 2007, and some of these retain their status as hotspots for cannabis smokers -- just without their former cannabis license. One such option is Café De Buurvrouw, which also features live music from local acts. Similar bars are scattered across the city, but concentrated especially in the medieval center, where coffeeshops -- and the tourists who love them -- proliferate.

Other coffeeshops have turned into bars to comply with other restrictions on cannabis sales. The so-called "distance criterion" (afstandscriterium), introduced in 2014, prohibited all coffeeshops within 250 meters of a school. Since the same criterion did not apply to bars, some of the affected coffeeshops made the switch to alcohol. Some, like alternative-music bar Cafe Sound Garden, remain smoker-friendly, a nod to their coffeeshop past.

Smoke-Friendly Accommodations

Last but not least, if you stay at one of the city's smoker-friendly hotels, all you have to do is head downstairs to the hotel bar for a drink and a smoke. Amsterdam Hotel the Crown, for example, is a one-star hotel that offers a smoker-friendly bar for patrons.

Edited by Kristen de Joseph.

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