Most of you must be aware by now that a notorious club system will be introduced for coffeeshops across the Netherlands from 1 January 2013. In brief, under this system, those who do not live in the Netherlands will not be able even to come inside Betty. Also, those who do live in the Netherlands will have to ‘register’ with us and obtain what is called ‘wietpas‘ even if you do not intend to smoke. Now the negative implications on BLAF are more than obvious.
– Overseas visitors (or at Betty we call them ‘Supernationals’) cannot join BLAF including the next big band from UK ‘You Me Tree’.
– Participating musicians and audience have to go through ‘registering process’, which is in my eyes violation of privacy.
– There will be no chance that someone happens to pass by, hears the music, pops in and sing one great song like it happened in the past because of the administration process .
– These means the spirit of BLAF ‘open-minded open mic’ will be completely destroyed.
When BomberLéo came to me and asked whether she could host BLAF open mics at Betty, I felt honoured because it was a sign that she understood the open spirit of Betty. Her priorities were clearly not on equipment, acoustic structure of the space, location nor alcoholic license, which I imagine some participants didn’t understand at least at the beginning. However, I am still proud that Betty has been a unique element of BLAF. Betty as an establishment has been indeed a symbol of free spirit and open-mindedness of Amsterdam and the Netherlands for decades and that’s exactly what BLAF stands for although Betty and BLAF express it in different ways.
However, if the system is really to be introduced from next January, we will not be able to host the events like we have in the past. In order to keep the spirit and identity of BLAF, I will have to reluctantly accept that BLAF will look for a new venue and I will be totally gutted. Whoever has come up with the law never knew that some shops are more than licensed soft drug dealers. Many of them are indeed a proactive participants for unique and progressive culture of the Netherlands.
The local government of Amsterdam as well as the mayor have expressed their dislikes of the system although I do not know how much of power they have to prevent the law from being implemented. Meanwhile, there will be a general election on 12 September across the country. Now my plea is that, whoever can vote and appreciate the open spirit of our beautiful Amsterdam as well as maybe the small roles that Betty has played in the whole BLAF project, please, please do vote for the relatively liberal parties who have expressed their opposition to the wietpas.
I have never met anyone who claimed to have voted for Mr Wilders during my time in Amsterdam but the fact that he and his party had a big space in the last government could mean, at least partly, that political apathy among the people of liberal opinions seem to be a problem. I would however be most thankful if much more people with open minded spirits proactively express their opinions and commitment to the local politics so that Amsterdam will stay a symbol of pragmatism based on free-spirited idealism and and so that Betty could continue to host BLAF from 1 Jan 2013 onwards.
Thank you so much for your time to read this message.