Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Motor Cafe changes gear


Motor Cafe changes gear

Motor Cafe changes gear

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The Motor Cafe is keeping the motorbike, but losing the bikie bar vibe. Photo by: KYLE SHERER

THE Motor Cafe – famous for its automotive theme and glass-encased Harley – has just celebrated its one year birthday. But now the manager Suko Om is preparing to give the venture one hell of a tune-up.

Since it opened this time last year, the café has built up a dedicated following of Khmer and expat speed freaks, said Suko Om. But now he’s in the difficult position of broadening Motor Cafe’s appeal without losing touch with its character.

“The way it is now, it attracts a niche market, because Cambodians aren’t ready for this yet. I feel like it’s a little bit out there and extreme for the average person. I’m going to tone it down, but at the same time make it so that anyone can fit in.”

Suko Om’s solution is to remodel the Motor Café along the lines of Hard Rock Café, with photographs of actors adorning the walls, to damp down the stark automotive décor which he says can unsettle some Khmer customers.

“The idea is to try to bring back the ’60s ’70s and ’80s into this place. I want a modern look that incorporates retro style, with stars from the west like Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando on the walls alongside Cambodian movie stars. I want foreigners to come in and understand exactly what it’s about, and local teenagers will come here and think ‘I want to be cool just like this,’” he explained.

“I will keep some of the car seats and I will hold to the theme of the Motor Cafe and there will still be a bike in here. I will always retain the motor theme; it’s unique in some ways and appeals to that sense of man and machine.”

Suko Om said that the nightspot was originally started by his friend Miko.

“My friend opened this place and he loves motorsports – both bikes and cars – and for him this is more like a hobby, but he’s married now, and has kids, and the wife is on him a lot about fast cars and fast motorcycles. Because he doesn’t have time to really get the business growing he was waiting on me to come over here to make it more exciting.”

Suko Om said that Miko, who works for the government and did not want his full name to appear in print, agrees that it’s time for the café to take the next step and become more commercial.

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