How Stockholm's nightlife could learn from Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, a night mayor works to find the balance between protecting cultural interests for night owls, while at the same time adhering to the city’s laws. As Stockholm is currently suffering from night scene shutdowns, could the city learn from this concept?

Ramon de Lima is the chairman of the board of Amsterdam’s night mayor initiative: an NGO that works between the vibrant nightlife and the mayor’s office of Amsterdam. The idea sprung some years ago when many spaces and venues got closed or severely limited through police presence due to fear of violence and noise. The night mayor, “Nachtburgermeester,” works to protect the diverse cultural interests of those who enjoy, work or create during night times all around the city, while also communicating and adhering to a city’s rules and laws. The art is to find a middle ground between the two parties, truly respecting the value of a city that cultivates a vibrant, inspiring nightlife.

While governments often believe nightlife to cause nuisance, those who avidly enjoy night activities know that there’s a unique respect and tolerance among crowds when they are allowed to obtain their freedom. As an example, one could take the brutal and strict curfew in Stockholm’s (official) clubs: come 3am, within minutes, hundreds of energized people are out on the street, ultimately causing chaos, not by their willing but by lawful force. Something similar had been happening in one of Amsterdam’s most lively central squares. A pilot project then tested a radical approach: instead of policemen scolding people or imposing their presence on the square, immediately causing tension – a group of trained stewards was present, more approachable and less authoritarian, yet still respected, to explain rules and guide people away from the square. With police only on standby in the background, this resulted in a 26 % decrease of noise complaints and violence.

In the end, it is surely necessary to stay true to a city’s nature and vibe. In Stockholm, above ground things seem restrictive and extensively ruled, yet the underground scene is as vibrant and creative, as passionate and tolerant as few others. One must remember that not many might actually want this to change. It makes nightlife less accessible to those who are not appreciative of its values. 

Amsterdam would not be able to economically maintain a regular 24-hour setup such as Berlin does, for example. While the city now gives out a few 24 hour licenses per year, it instead needs to focus on offering creative spaces for small initiatives and people, decreasing the amount of currently temporary locations where artists are often pushed out of. Applying this theory to Stockholm, it could be a possibility to further support a more permanent body such as the Nachtburgermeester, already initiated as the „Nattrådet“, to persistently work together with authorities. By its restrictive and regulatory measures, Stockholm authorities are continuously decreasing its own night tourism and attraction. With more passionate and devote people amongst the night crowd coming together for such an initiative, the more likely we could start discussing actual changes where the city celebrates and embraces its diverse, famous underground life, instead of criminalizing it.

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