Less than two months after Sihanoukville authorities evicted scores of vendors along O’Chheuteal Beach deemed to be an eyesore, a private developer has begun constructing a new “pub street” just 50 meters from the same shore.
Khut Sophorn, the manager of the project, said the roughly 2-hectare development sits about 50 meters from O’Chheuteal Beach and contains 102 plots for bars and restaurants, 80 percent of which have already been rented out.
“It will be called ‘Sihanoukville Pub Street,’” Mr. Sophorn said.
“The project is expected to be finished within three months before the upcoming high season,” he said, adding that those renting plots would be required to construct two-story buildings for their establishments.
The majority of those who have reserved plots are business owners in Sihanoukville City or O’Tres Beach, along with Westerners looking for new ventures along Cambodia’s coast, he said.
Mr. Sophorn said the land on which the development sits is owned by Kith Meng—whose Royal Group conglomerate was awarded the right to construct a $3 billion resort complex on Koh Rong island in 2008—but claimed the plot was being leased to a different tycoon. Mr. Sophorn said this tycoon was his employer but refused to name him.
Mr. Meng declined to comment.
The construction of “Sihanoukville Pub Street” comes after the provincial government announced in February that all bars, restaurants and guesthouses along O’Tres Beach, and some establishments on O’Chheuteal, would be evicted, citing environmental concerns.
Although the buildings have tentatively been allowed to remain on O’Tres, 96 structures were ripped down on O’Chheuteal last month, with provincial authorities saying the area needed to be beautified.
Nou Sophal, director of the Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism department, said he knew the land in question was owned by Mr. Meng but was not familiar with specific plans for the area.
Despite claiming not to know about the new pub street, Mr. Sophal said he was happy to hear about it, adding that the government was considering constructing another pub street in the city, on a different beach.
“The tourism department has planned to build it along Serendipity Beach. Currently the department is still studying this project. The department is looking for parking areas for visitors coming to the pub street,” Mr. Sophal said, adding that he believed two new pub streets would attract more tourists to the coastal town.
“Having a pub street is really important, as it will attract more visitors to come to visit Sihanoukville. After going swimming the whole day, people need places to visit at nighttime to drink, eat and shop for souvenirs,” he said.
Mick Spencer, a Sihanoukville Tourism Association board member and owner of the local travel agency ANA Travel & Tours, said there was skepticism among locals as to whether the new Sihanoukville Pub Street bars would actually be more appealing to tourists than existing establishments.
“It’s Kith Meng’s land, I believe. If it is managed correctly and the waste removal systems are in place, there is lighting and there is security then it might be the venue of choice for tourists and residents. But really, I think the thinking in the town is that it’s already oversupplied and this is more of the same,” Mr. Spencer said.
(Additional reporting by George Wright)
© 2016, All rights reserved.