Antwerp moves against sex shops and night stores

The City of Antwerp is acting to discourage shops that take the image of the northern port city down market. Sex shops, gambling dens, night shops and shisha bars are all being targeted.

In order to ensure that as few as possible of such establishments sully the reputation of the city on the River Scheldt a new start-up tax is being introduced next January. Businesspeople wanting to open any store that falls into this category will have to pay a 6,000 euro start-up fee. An annual tax of 1,500 euros will also be charged.

All shops and hospitality establishments like pubs and restaurants need a licence. In Antwerp the licence will remain free of charge except for stores that damage the reputation of the city.

Last year there were some 360 stores that fall into the image-damaging category.

Antwerp city cabinet member Koen Kennis: "We're not opposed to night shops, but in some parts of the city there is a too high concentration. Calculations show that such premises have a negative impact on the viability of shopping streets."

Mr Kennis argues that such shops disrupt the neighbourhood and create public order problems that mean that the city authorities have to deploy extra means.

"Our aim is to raise as little money as possible in this way and to reduce the number of such stores."

"We're feeling the pressure!"

People who run sex shops and night stores in Antwerp are now at the centre of the storm. They say that they really feel targeted. Asad Khan, who runs three night shops in Antwerp: "We're feeling an awful lot of stress. I'm getting the impression that the city authorities want to get rid of us."

Antwerp doesn't stand alone. Similar charges are levied in Aalst, Leuven and Ghent.