Riverside restaurants in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district were ordered over the weekend to reduce outdoor seating to ease the flow of cars and tourists, district officials said yesterday.
On Saturday night, dozens of military and civilian police visited restaurant owners on Sisowath Quay, telling them to pull back their seating from the sidewalk, said Ly Kimleng, deputy district military police chief.
“We just gave them the instruction of taking their items inside. We did not confiscate those items,” Mr Kimleng said, adding that he did not know how long the order would be enforced. “It is not the big problem to their business when those items are removed inside.”
Storefront commerce, curbside merchants, vehicle parking and driveways all over Phnom Penh make many sidewalks impassable for pedestrians. However Sok Penhvuth, deputy Daun Penh district governor, said local authorities wanted the riverfront to have “public order” because businesses “were earning their profits in terms of exploitation of the public street.”
“Both Khmer and foreign shop and restaurant owners are gaining their personal advantages of the public space in front of their shops and restaurants,” Mr Penhvuth said yesterday.
“It is difficult for the tourists who walk along the street,” he said, adding that the businesses’ outdoor furniture made the street look like “chaos.”
Yesterday, outside seating at the restaurants along the riverside had been cut back severely.
Outside the Bright Lotus Guesthouse and Restaurant, builders used a truck and crane to remove outdoor furniture and sun shades. A large tree near the front entrance was also cut down, with the receptionist at the guesthouse, who gave her name as Tinna, saying the police had ordered its removal.
“They say we have can have no more outdoor seating or plants in this area,” she said.
An assistant manager at a riverside eatery, who did not want to give his name, said he hoped the restrictions on outdoor seating would be temporary.
“I think this is not a good action by the government,” he said, saying the policy could cut into profits. “If they had talked to us first maybe we could have prepared.”