AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – The City of Amsterdam said Thursday it is shutting down nearly one-third of the 350 prostitution "windows" in the city's famed red light district, as part of a crackdown on crime in the area.
The city said a 2003 law allowed it to deny or revoke prostitutes' licenses when it suspected operators would use them for money laundering or other illegal financial activity, "which in concrete terms means that those involved won't be able to continue their businesses" after Jan. 1, the city said in a statement.
The Dutch government legalized prostitution in 2000 with an eye to making it easier to tax and regulate. Even before then, Amsterdam's Red Light District was tolerated by authorities and had become a major tourist attraction.
The narrow streets near Amsterdam's center have been known for prostitution since the city was the hub of a global trading empire during the Netherlands' 17th century Golden Age.
Scantily-clad women stand in the windows, beckoning passers-by now just as they did sailors then. The area is also home to numerous bars, brothels and sex clubs.
But it is a magnet for human trafficking, drug dealers, and petty crime, and the city's largest political party called for the crackdown.
In response, several major sex clubs held an open house in February, hoping to improve relations and dispel the area's negative reputation.
Many of the brothels say the financial screening is unfair, because banks are often unwilling to work with them, making it difficult to keep correct books.
Critics of the crackdown predict it will merely lead to more street prostitution.
Amsterdam says other brothels are still under review, and it plans to extend the crackdown to related hotels and cafes next year.