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In Amsterdam, don’t drink and stand

Have you bought into the notion that Amsterdam is a place where anything goes?

Think again.

While you can see and and experience lots of liberties you won’t find in many other places, not everything is allowedoffsite.

We’re not just talking about normal rules, such as “Don’t carry weapons,” “Don’t use the street as a toilet,” and “No cycling in pedestrian areas.”

Girl outside Cafe; Tabac
Girl outside Café Tabac
© Copyright DutchAmsterdam.nl. Want to use this photo?

No, there also are some prohibitions so insane that you wonder what those who came up with them have been smoking (legally or not).

Case in point: in Amsterdam you may not drink alcohol at a terrace while standing. Why? No one really knows, and if somebody does you probably would not want to talk with him anyway.

The rule has been part of the Algemene Plaatselijke Verordening — the local by-laws — for many years, but enforcement of it has recently been dusted off with the introduction last April of the Terrassennota 2008, in which the Centrum borough details anything and everything that can possibly be organized and smothered in rules where terraces are concerned.

To be fair, some of the rules and regulations make perfect sense. Most are designed to ensure that everyone can enjoy the city’s public space without causing unnecessary nuisance to others. For instance, tables and chairs should not block a neighbor’s front door. Likewise, tables and chairs are not to completely block the sidewalk, or spill over into traffic lanes.

But don’t drink alcohol while standing?

We have heard several explanations, such as:

  • People who drink while standing around form groups, which tend to block people from going into or out of the café
  • or they block the sidewalk.
  • or they block that neighbor’s door again.
  • or they figure they can also drink while walking.

We won’t mention the one that claims people standing around may hinder emergency services.


In most public places in the city, consumption of alcohol is prohibited. If you get caught drinking anyway, you may get a fine or — depending on your behavior and level of inebriation — be taken to a police office.

If you get caught drinking while standing up at an outdoor terraces, it’s the café’s proprietor who gets in trouble.

The owner of café Brouwerij ‘t IJ recently received a letter from the Reinigingspolitie (the police department in charge of anything from keeping the streets clean to dealing with illegal advertising signs, and from addressing violation of environmental laws to — yes — making sure terraces are operated in according with all the minutiae contained in Terrassennota we mentioned earlier.

The letter was accompanied by three photographs, of three people standing underneath a tree inside the fenced-off terrace — beer glasses in hand.

A first offense results in a warning. A second offense costs the proprietor €500. The next time its €1000. If that doesn’t cause him or her to tackle anyone left standing, the place is closed down for a week. After that, another offense will cause the mayor to declare the business closed for an indeterminate length of time.

And so, if you wish to drink your alcohol while standing up (perhaps to see if you still can do so), you’ll have to be inside the café However, while you are inside, you are not allowed to smoke — regardless of whether you are standing or sitting. If you want to smoke, go outside, but don’t take your glass with you. Once outside, you can order another beer or wine, and you can smoke, but not stand while drinking alcohol.

Welcome to Amsterdam!

• How to visit an Amsterdam café
• Ordering a beer — according to The Undutchables

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