While the rest of the city was ringing in the New Year with fireworks and vibrant celebrations, the shop’s owner, Johnny Petram was closing the shop’s shutters and locking its doors for the final time.
“I tried to make the best of it, but it’s the worst day of my life,” Petram said as tears began to stream from his eyes. “Mellow Yellow is the oldest coffee shop in Amsterdam and now it’s gone.”
Mellow Yellow opened in 1967 and became a major focal point in a city that was known for its vague cannabis laws throughout the latter part of the 20th century. Tourists and locals alike congregated at the coffee shop to relax and enjoy the healing plant.
“I have Israelis and Palestinians in here smoking together,” he told The Telegraph. “Even people who don’t smoke come in here to have their photo taken. It’s part of the history of Amsterdam.”
Mellow Yellow, along with 28 other shops, was forced to shut down following the recent passing of government legislation that prohibits coffee shops from being open within 250 meters of a school. Even the mayor’s office admits the new law will probably not prevent any young people from smoking.
The new laws are part of a compromise to prevent law enforcement from implementing the “weed-pass” (membership) system that is meant to prevent non-Dutch citizens from enjoying cannabis in the shops, as it could negatively affect the city’s tourism industry.
The “weed-pass” system has already been put into effect throughout other cities in the Netherlands, but Amsterdam has been slow to follow suit. Jasper Karman, a spokesman for the mayor’s office says the school proximity law helps keep the remaining 167 coffee shops in Amsterdam open.
Petram argued the shop’s forced closure in court, stating the only school within the set parameters is a hairdressing academy made up of students who are for the most part over 18; the legal smoking age in the country. Lack of resources to fight the new law has unfortunately left Petram with few options.
“My focus is now on opening Mellow Yellow in another location,” Petram explained. “I’m going to make a plan, and then I’m going to go to the mayor with it.”
Some fear that a more conservative government could be voted into office during the next election and that stricter rules against coffee shops could be on the horizon. The worst-case scenario might see the end of cannabis cafes in the Netherlands altogether, which would signal a serious identity shift for the famous marijuana tourism location.