The owner of a Sihanoukville oceanside bar and dance venue said on Sunday that online accusations of a racist policy banning Cambodians were unfounded, rebutting claims last week that a would-be patron was denied entry because of his nationality.
Sihanoukville resident Ket Limthy, 27, said he was shocked when a foreign security guard outside Otres Corner Last Hippie Standing barred him from entering the O’Tres Beach bar last Tuesday night.
“I was trying to go inside but he stopped me so I didn’t go inside at all,” said Mr. Limthy, who had planned to meet his friend, Wouter Symons, for a few beers after work.
When Mr. Limthy arrived at the bar, known for hosting psychedelic, dub, house and techno DJs, Mr. Symons was already inside, Mr. Limthy said. After telling the guard that he was there to meet a friend, Mr. Limthy was told to wait outside while the guard went in to fetch Mr. Symons, who was visiting from Phnom Penh.
Mr. Symons, 27, who shared the incident in a Facebook post, said he was confused when the guard came inside and told him that his friend was waiting outside.
“So I asked the security guy to send my friend in, then he told me they don’t allow Khmer people,” he said in a Facebook message. “When I asked him why he said that it has been their policy for a long time.”
Contacted on Sunday, the bar’s owner, who identified himself only as Fred, and posts on Facebook under the name Fredro Finz, said people of all backgrounds were welcome and Cambodians regularly visited the bar, but it reserved the right to deny entry based on patrons’ attire and level of intoxication, as he intended to keep out sex workers, beggars and tuk-tuk drivers waiting for customers.
“It’s called face control and dress code,” he said. “That’s the normal security process in any nightclub.”
Mr. Limthy said he was wearing a button-down, long-sleeve gray shirt and black trousers on Tuesday night, his work attire for his administrative position at an energy company.
The owner said his responses to negative comments online were being taken out of context and denied the accusations of racism, saying people were not allowed in the bar on a case-by-case basis.
“How can I be racist against Asians if I am Asian myself?” he said, adding that he was from Kazakhstan. He also said he employed five Cambodians at the bar.
The allegations were already starting to hurt business, the bar’s owner said.
On Saturday night, when the venue would usually take in about $400 to $500 during the slow season, it only earned about $200, he said.
“Last night, I only had 20 customers,” he said on Sunday. “It’s a bad promotion for my bar.”
“We’re getting this kind of reputation that we’re racist,” he added.
Mr. Limthy said the reputation was warranted.
“It shouldn’t be in Cambodia, this place. The owner should run the business somewhere else,” he said. “It was racist.”