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Calls for ‘shhh’ in noisy Pub Street

Hospitality businesses around Siem Reap’s Pub Street believe noise has got out of control.
Hospitality businesses around Siem Reap’s Pub Street believe noise has got out of control. Nicky Sullivan

Calls for ‘shhh’ in noisy Pub Street

Siem Reap hospitality businesses have called for action to address noise issues around Pub Street they say are affecting the city’s appeal to more lucrative tourists.

The Cambodia Hotel Association collected letters from the businesses and forwarded them to Siem Reap provincial governor Khim Bun Song this week asking him to enforce existing noise pollution laws. 

The letters were gathered on the advice of the Ministry of Tourism as part of a consultation exercise in conjunction with the Cambodia Tourism Federation and Government-Private Sector Forum Tourism. 

Carrol Sahaidak-Beaver, executive director of the CHA, said: “We were asked by the Ministry of Tourism to identify specific details on where there were issues so they could take action.” Sahaidak-Beaver did not say how many letters were submitted, but said that they identified specific areas, venues and time frames. 

Cambodian anti-noise pollution laws specify noise levels in mixed commercial and service areas should not exceed 65 decibels between 6pm and 10pm, and 50 decibels from 10pm until the following morning. Daytime noise in such areas is permitted up to 70 decibels. Fifty decibels is equivalent to the sound of a dishwasher in an adjacent room. 

On most nights along Pub Street after 10pm, dance music thumps from Angkor What? Bar and Temple Club, while live bands clang and caterwaul upstairs at Beer Battle and Triangle. Further along, karaoke singers bawl out of Corner Bar, startling diners in nearby restaurants who strain to catch each other’s conversations over cooling plates of fish amok. 

Local business owners complain that with the noise, the lights and streets overrun with drinks carts, the overall impression is less than dignified, and their businesses are suffering as a result. They also feel that in a city dependent on cultural tourism driven by the temples of Angkor, the atmosphere is incongruous. 

In common with many that Post Weekend spoke to, the owner of one well-established business in the area, who wished to remain anonymous, feels that Pub Street has lost its charm.

“The impression now is that of a cheap Kao San Road [the notoriously tawdry Bangkok backpacker district]. It’s disorganised, overcrowded, dirty, and a deafening loud, chaotic mess,” he said. 

Caught between the competing dins, he is losing business as a result as diners choose to take their business where they can actually hear one another speak. 

Sahaidak-Beaver agrees. “Pub Street is a condensed area that frankly is losing its value just for that reason,” she said. “The excitement of a lot going on struggles against the increasing middle to upper-middle class tourist that does not want to be accosted by noise and conflicting entertainment.

I avoid Pub Street in that there is nowhere to sit where you aren’t hearing two or three or more other facilities. This is not fun.”

Martin Dishman, the owner of Linga Bar and Hotel Be, has watched guests check out after only one night in his three-room boutique hotel on The Passage. 

“We have had many guests stay one night and flee the next day because they couldn’t handle the noise,” he said. “Once that got into reviews, people began to understand the location was noisy, but not everyone can deal with it. As a result, our business has suffered. Where I once had five hotel staff, I now have just two.”

The issue seems to have worsened over the years, in particular as competition between the two clubs at the top end of Pub Street has intensified. 

Alex Sutherland, the owner of Angkor What? Bar, acknowledged that there was a problem, and said that he would like to see a resolution that allowed everyone to continue to enjoy themselves while respecting other businesses. 

“I’d like to see the clubs closed off, so that the sound is contained inside where you can play as loud as you like without disturbing anyone on the street,” he said. 

Post Weekend contacted Temple Club for a comment but were told that the owners were not available. 

Sahaidak-Beaver said the CHA and its members wanted the existing law to be enforced, not just for the benefit of their members but also for the general public. 

“This is just not about our businesses,” she said. “It is about children sleeping, it is about the effect on families, it is about the decibels that are destroying hearing. We need to be concerned about this.

“I think it is time for these facilities to recognise the right of individual facilities to ensure the right of enjoyment in each one.”

Another business owner whose trade has also been affected, and who wished to remain anonymous, echoed the view of many in hoping that action may soon be taken. 

“I think that the local authorities understand the need for this area to attract a wide range of tourists and that Siem Reap’s economy is very dependent on cultural tourism.

“I think everyone is working to make Siem Reap a more distinguished destination. We have recently had the new code of conduct for the temples, the beautification of the riverside and a number of international accolades, and I hope that noise pollution will be addressed shortly.”

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