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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Charlie’s Bar up and running again

Zoe Trout, Charlie Kumar and the bar crew at the new venue.
Zoe Trout, Charlie Kumar and the bar crew at the new venue. NICKY SULLIVAN

Charlie’s Bar up and running again

Charlie’s Bar is back but at a new location and re-opens next Friday, November 14, after a long and difficult three months following the closure of the original venue.

Owners Charlie Kumar and Zoe Trout and the team are celebrating not only the birth of the much bigger and better bar, but also Charlie’s own 37th birthday which falls on the same day.

“First off, I want to give a huge shout-out to the whole team. We couldn’t have done it without them,” Kumar said. .

The new venue, just off The Lane, is bigger and brighter than the old one, with a mezzanine floor and plenty of room for sitting or standing and mingling and talking.

“I want to make it as chatty as possible. It’s a bar, it should be a place where people come to talk. Luckily, my staff are pretty chatty too,” Kumar said.

Even though the bar runs over two floors, the owners are working it so that people don’t feel separated from one another, although those who want to will be find their own nooks, particularly in the upstairs back area.

“The idea is to have two floors but kind of merge it so that it still feels like the same space,” Kumar said. “We’re going to keep it very open, so that if you’re sitting at the bar, you can still see the people upstairs, maybe even have a chat.”

Charlie Kumar starring as Superman at the bar's recent Halloween bash.
Charlie Kumar starring as Superman at the bar's recent Halloween bash. PHOTO SUPPLIED

One thing that will remain the same is the American feel of the original venue, and of course the customised Honda Steed will go up on the wall of the front bar. Charlie and Zoe also designed some nifty furniture out of wood and steel drums, which are surprisingly comfortable.

The duo promises that favourites from the old menu, such as quesadillas and fish finger sandwiches, will still be served. But new head chef, Mengly Monk, is also adding some bolder flavours to the menu.

New additions include a lemon cured beef salad, shrimp and pumpkin croquettes with a Thousand Island dressing, and a refreshing cold cucumber salad. Sweet or savoury waffles have also been added to the breakfast menu.

But aside from good food and drinks deals, Charlie’s is known for its ability to kick off a party like nowhere else in town. Staff are already working on the plans for Christmas and New Year’s and Australia Day, the last of which saw one of the best parties the bar has ever had in January this year.

“It was phenomenal,” said Zoe. “It literally ran all day and all night. We filled the bar up with sand, and it just kept going. We even got a shout-out on Triple J, the Australian radio station, as the place to go to in Cambodia.”

Getting the new bar ready to be up and running has been a much tougher slog than the pair imagined. Aside from the shock of the unexpected closure in late August, and the hard hunt for a new venue while keeping all their staff on the payroll, Charlie and Zoe found a few unexpected surprises when they started renovating the new location, specialties of the local building trade.

With the help of architect Stuart Cochlin and his team, the work started in earnest on October 10.

“We had to rip everything out and start again. All of the wiring, which was cemented into the walls, all of the plumbing, there’s a whole new sewage system. Everything,” Charlie said.

Charlie and Zoe are feeling optimistic about the future of their new bar.

“Just because we’ve moved, nothing changes. We still want to be the place that serves good drinks at great prices. We’re feeling good,” Charlie said.

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