Soft lighting, wall murals and vintage photographs, all in the surroundings of a 1960s-era building – the appropriately named Old School Bar is the capital’s trendiest new joint.
The pub, which opened just two months ago, is the latest place for young people to socialise in a charming 1960s building, complete with an open yard dotted with fairy lights.
Old School Bar is the creation of former mobile street cocktail vendor Chea Sovathanak.
The 25-year-old began selling food and beverages from his cart after dropping out of the National University of Management, armed with just a black board menu and a few low tables and chairs under a parasol.
“I was a vendor selling cocktails on the street behind Royal Palace. I was there for two years and faced problems with a shortage of seats and space for my clients,” Sovathanak told The Post.
“I decided it was time to find a good location to set up a proper pub serving good food and a rich variety of cocktails in a great atmosphere, so that my clients would find it convenient to come and hang out.”
Fortunately for Sovathanak – who has a hobby of collecting vintage items, especially vintage pictures of old Western celebrities – he found a charming building for rent just a 10-minute walk from his cocktail cart.
“I found this beautiful place. When I first arrived here, I fell in love with this old building right away as I’m a fan of vintage and antique things. It is totally my taste.
“It is interesting architecture and it was most likely built in the 1960s. I’m not quite sure about the history of this building as it has been bought and sold many times before I came,” Sovathanak said.
As an antique and vintage lover, Sovathanak has not tried to cover up the cracking paint exposing the brick underneath or the rusty window bars. Instead, he regards these flaws as part of the building’s charm.
“To find this old building and turn it into a pub is rare as you see urbanisation swallowing up many of these ageing heritage properties. As you know, it is hard to preserve old buildings."
“I didn’t change any design of the building. I decided to not do much remodelling, I only fixed a few broken things here and there as I prefer to keep this building in its own original style as much as possible. Only the addition of some murals, paintings, minimal decoration and colour lighting were needed to make this into my vision of Old School Bar,” he said.
Old School Bar opened its doors in May. It serves beer ($1.50 to $3 per bottle, while draught beer is 3 litres for $14) and Asian food (prices start from $2.50 to $5).
A variety of cocktails are also on offer – ranging from margaritas, mojitos, rum and corona – at $3 per glass or $7 per jug.
In the striking surroundings of the colourfully decorated 1960s building, it is no surprise that taking photos is among the first thing most visitors decide to do.
“Because people like to take a lot of photos here, I decided to set up a photo competition that has become very successful,” Sovathanak said.
Following the popularity of Old School Bar, Sovathanak is already keeping his eyes open for another characterful old building in which he can open a second venue.
“I’m planning to open the second branch soon. I still fancy an old property that can be turned into a beautiful pub. I’m not quite sure if I can still find a vintage structure, but I will definitely try hard to find one.”
Old School Bar is located on Street 254 behind Cellcard Telecommunication Company, near Independence Monument. It is open from 5pm to 12am every day.
For more information, the pub can be contacted by phone (010 233 020 and 096 373 9313) or Facebook (@oldshcoolbarphnompenh).