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New neighborhood bar spreads cheers

Co-owners Alex Sutherland and Charlie Kumar celebrate the new venue.​ Photograph: Miranda Glasser/Phnom Penh Post

Reapers, unsure of where new bar Charlie’s is located, only have to look for the large, black motorbike hanging above the entrance.

The American neighbourhood-style bar, which opened earlier this month, is co-owned by long-term expat biking enthusiast Charlie Kumar, and Alex Sutherland who also co-owns The Sun and Café Central.

With its exposed brick walls, retro advertising memorabilia like the lit-up Coca Cola sign and a pinball machine, Charlie’s feels like a little piece of Americana right in the heart of Temple Town, positioned as it is on a prime corner spot opposite The Sun restaurant.

Its owners agree that they wanted to do something different on the Siem Reap bar scene. Charlie’s is situated on the site of the former Noodles restaurant, also owned by Sutherland.

The duo decided on a whim to convert Noodles into a bar a mere six weeks ago.

“I was sitting having a chat with Alex, looking at this place and I said it would be a great corner for a bar,” says Kumar. “One thing led to another and a week later, we took a sledgehammer to it.”

Charlie’s features an outdoor seating area with industrial-look tables – two are actually recycled electric cable drums – and chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1950s diner. Inside, the feel is cosy and neon-lit, with a long, copper and wood bar with stool seating.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Vintage ads on the wall at Charlie's.​ Photograph: Miranda Glasser/Phnom Penh Post

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Charlie’s in full swing on opening night.​ Photograph: Miranda Glasser/Phnom Penh Post

“I just designed it around the kind of neighbourhood bars that people hang out in in places like downtown New York,” says Sutherland. “I wanted to have a mix of furniture.”

Adds Kumar, “I wanted it to look different to what we have in town already. We wanted to make it look like a bar bar, you know – you want to be a bar, you look like a bar.”

A lot of the furniture and memorabilia comes from items the duo has amassed over the years, from various markets and shops around Southeast Asia. Above the bar is a strangely mesmerising psychedelic clock with a rotating yellow, green and red centerpiece.

“That clock,” Kumar laughs, “Alex said he had to have it. All our stuff’s from all over the place. We’ve been talking about doing a bar for while now, so every time we see something we like, we pick it up.”

Charlie’s aims to cater to tourists and locals alike, with a menu boasting  both draft and bottled beer, wine, spirits and perhaps some of the most competitively-priced cocktails in town – mojitos and Cuba libres for just $1.50.

“The idea was we build it to make it comfortable and attractive, but we also try to be cheap,” says Kumar. “Expats are always looking for something different, and the price point appeals to them as well.”

The pair plans to serve ‘fun food’ at the bar such as burgers with hand-cut fries, nachos and Caesar salad as well as a couple of Khmer dishes.

Charlie’s will be open from 8am to also catch the breakfast crowd.

As for the giant Honda Steed motorbike hanging above the door, this is a nod to Kumar’s passion.

“I like the look of these bikes,” he says, “I bought it to basically just leave parked outside, as a feature. I wanted to paint a logo on it. And then we had a different idea for outside. We were both standing and looking up at this spot and I joked to Alex that maybe we should just stick that bike up there and he agreed. The next day we put it up.”

Kumar says that with Pub St historically being the main bar hub, he’s keen to liven up Street 11.

“This street didn’t have life and energy before,” he says. “The two main restaurants here are pretty much Café Central and The Sun, so we want to try and bring some life into this street.”

Charlie’s is open from 8am until 1am, seven days a week..



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