After a controversial draw, Berkel-Enschot suddenly gets a coffee shop in its new village center, and as a result ‘the entire village is turned upside down’. The mayor actually sees no difference with a liquor store.
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“A coffee shop does not fit in a shopping center where so many children come,” says Theo van Osta (66) in the parking lot of the brand new Koningsoord shopping center in Berkel-Enschot, a village that is part of the municipality of Tilburg. “There is a candy store directly opposite that building.”
He just got a salmon casserole from the ‘fish specialist’. Van Osta doesn’t like the fact that the Tilburg municipal council wants to establish the municipality’s twelfth coffee shop in the new ‘village heart’ of Berkel-Enschot – where the Trappist monastery with all its lands stood for decades.
Anita Goeverneur (61) wholeheartedly agrees with him. “It has always been a safe village, without problems. Then you don’t have to visit them,” she says, with a full shopping bag in her hand.
Berkel-Enschot, a prosperous Brabant village with 13,500 inhabitants, is ‘on its hind legs’ about the arrival of a coffee shop in the middle of the shopping center, according to opposition leader Hans Smolders in the municipal council.
Promised youth center
“The entire village is turned upside down. The residents have been waiting for ten years for a promised youth center, but they get a coffee shop.”
A petition against the plan received 4,500 signatures within a few weeks. Last Monday, two hundred angry villagers with banners attended a committee meeting of the municipal council. So many people in the public gallery had never been seen before.
“We are not necessarily against a coffee shop,” says Ben Hamers, spokesperson for the residents’ protest and member of the village council. “But not here, in the middle of the new center that is still being developed. I understand that it will be a takeaway coffee shop, a kind of pickup point. Do that à la McDonald’s on an arterial road on the edge of the village.”
Smoking young people hanging around
The villagers and shopkeepers fear nuisance from young people smoking cannabis and parking crowds in and near the shopping center.
What further inflamed emotions is the way in which the choice of location was made: by drawing lots. The municipality of Tilburg currently has eleven coffee shops, all of which are located in and around the city center. Research showed that there is room for two more coffee shops, to better balance supply and demand.
33 entrepreneurs responded to the tender for two additional tolerance permits, each with their own (possible) location for a coffee shop. After testing, the majority were excluded because not all criteria (such as: not in a residential street or close to a school) were met. At the end of June, a draw was held among the nine remaining candidates.
The young entrepreneur Aryo Bastiaanssen, who is a real estate agent in Helmond and had his eye on a vacant storefront in the new village center of Berkel-Enschot, was one of the lucky ones. The other winner of the draw wanted to start a coffee shop in Tilburg-Noord, but the intended building turned out to be too close to a youth center. That location has therefore been dropped again.
Apologies for poor communication
The outcome of the draw hit Berkel-Enschot like a bomb. The village learned the news from the media rather than from the municipality itself. Mayor Theo Weterings has now apologized for the poor communication.
But it’s still right behind the location. “This fits in with our aim to spread coffee shops more widely across the municipality,” he says when asked. “Villages around the city are also included. The location criteria certainly do not rule out establishment in a new shopping center.”
They think very differently about this in Koningsoord. The action group No Coffeeshop Koningsoord has had three different protest pamphlets printed that hang everywhere behind the windows of shops and apartments. With texts such as: ‘Do not confront children and young people with (soft) drugs’, and: ‘No drug tourism in our family-friendly Koningsoord’.
Comparison with pharmacy
The floor in the proposed shop building has recently been poured. “It will not be an ordinary coffee shop with a smoking area,” says spokesperson Mark Rooijakkers. “It will be a collection point for cannabis, with four counters in a fresh, light and sleek store, comparable to a pharmacy. We will also deploy hosts to ensure that no people smoke in the shopping center and to prevent other nuisance. to go.”
The new coffee shop will be called ‘Dispensary Legal’, which refers to both the takeaway function and the impending legalization of soft drugs. Because Tilburg, together with Breda, is a pioneer in the government’s cannabis experiment: from mid-December, the coffee shops in both Brabant cities will be supplied by legal cannabis growers.
According to Mayor Weterings, a fervent advocate of legalization, a coffee shop will not be very different from a liquor store: “Weed trading has always been associated with crime, but we want to change that. That image has to change at some point. Liquor stores also sell products that are not healthy and customers under the age of 18 are not welcome. That is why I think a coffee shop would not be out of place in a shopping center.”
Another motion is coming
At the end of this month, the mayor will make a decision on the formal permit application for the takeaway coffee shop. But first he is waiting for Monday’s municipal meeting, in which opposition leader Smolders will submit a motion to immediately ‘pause’ the process surrounding the expansion of coffee shops.
Villager Hamers expects little from it, because the coalition parties are expected to continue to support the mayor. The motion was indeed rejected on Monday evening (19 votes in favor, 21 against). He is considering further actions.
Coffee shop owner Bastiaanssen is impressed by the resistance in the village, but according to his spokesperson Mark Rooijakkers, he is eager to get started. “Unknown means unloved,” says Rooijakkers. “But this will be the first new, truly legal coffee shop in the Netherlands. I expect the concerns of the villagers to disappear within six months.”