Congested streets draw the ire of local Siem Reap businesses

Businesses want the authorities to take action to make Pub Street more attractive for tourists.
Businesses want the authorities to take action to make Pub Street more attractive for tourists. Nicky Sullivan

Congested streets draw the ire of local Siem Reap businesses

In August 2, the owners of more than 40 bars and restaurants in and around Siem Reap’s central Pub Street filed a petition with the governor’s office asking that the authorities deal with problems of excess congestion, noise, street vendors, beggars and street children who take drugs.

Other than an acknowledgement that their petition was received, though, they have heard nothing since.

The petition reflects years of rising frustration among business owners as the streets around Pub Street have become increasingly crowded with tuk-tuks parked across the main thoroughfare along Street 11 making it virtually inaccessible except on foot. A dozen juice and food-vending carts have worsened the situation, they said.

The petition, which cited negative reviews on TripAdvisor in its support, was spearheaded by Serge Billot, the owner of the Angkor W restaurant group, and Alex Sutherland, owner of Angkor What? Bar and The Sun. They were joined by the owners of more than 20 other restaurants, including representatives of Temple Club, and other long-established businesses such as Blue Pumpkin, le Tigre de papier and Viva.

“We hope to see a safe and nice street without messy parking, no food and drinks on the road, some arrangement for the beggars who harass tourists for money, and also the street children with drugs,” said Choun Sreykhim, human resources officer for Angkor W. “Just by taking some action, the governor could solve all of these problems.”

Alex Sutherland, who also owns Café Central, Beatnik and Fifty5, echoed the frustrations.

“The governor has promised to tidy up this area for years, but no action has been forthcoming. My manager was in an audience at a meeting hosted by the governor recently where he said again that they were looking at a solution to the tuk-tuk numbers – but no timeframe or specifics were given,” he said. “No mention was made about the drinks carts.”

Sutherland’s property, The Sun, together with facing properties on the junction of Pub Street and Street 11, bears the brunt of thumping techno and dance tunes pumped out by the drinks cart vendors as they try to gain customers.

Sutherland said drinks carts not only harmed established businesses – which have to pay rent and rates – but also made a poor impression on tourists.

“The area has become so horrible now, and I think it’s only going to get worse unless something is done,” he said. “Just ask the opinion of hotel concierges. They recommend it be avoided.”

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