Anyone who has been to Phnom Penh over the last year or read some of my recent posts knows that the hostess bar scene in the city has grown by leaps and bounds. There are at least three times as many girlie bars now as there were when this site started . I think I have been to every one of them, including the worst girlie bar in Phnom Penh.
Does this sound familiar? Almost a year ago I posted a sort of rant against a hostess bar in Phnom Penh. At the time, I said it was the worst girlie bar in Phnom Penh. Based on my personal experience that was true. The staff was nothing special at all, but they were lead by one who was especially rude. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out if she was the boss or manager. But I do know that she had the biggest mouth of the bunch.
Goodbye to bad bars
Not long after I made that post calling the place the worst girlie bar in Phnom Penh, I noticed that it was keeping irregular hours. One day it would open late. Another it wouldn’t open at all. I wasn’t going back to the place. I was just passing by it quite often as it was between the place I was staying and a string of better bars on Street 136.
After a certain amount of time passed, I noticed that the bar wasn’t opening at all. The metal gate was pulled down and locked for good. The a sign appeared on the building announcing that the place was up for rent. So, it turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought the place was terrible.
As I write this, the place remains shuttered. No one else has moved into the vacant location. Some more mainstream businesses have opened up around it though. That probably means that whatever takes the spot next will not be a hostess bar. Then again you never know. Some of the new Circle K minimarts are sandwiched in between known hotbeds of prostitution!
The good, the bad, and the gone
There are so many hostess bars in town now that they actually have to compete for customers. That means that some bars are inevitably going to shut down. It is not only the bad bars that will go though. There are always some genuinely good places that get caught up in the crossfire.
Some of the hostess bars that I thought were very interesting or even very good have also disappeared recently. Meanwhile some bars that are absolute garbage including a few that have gained reputations as rip-off joints with bill padding continue to prosper.
Usually it seems that location is the key. Even a bad bar can do good business if its in the right spot. Some relatively low level bars on street corners seem to do really good business. Meanwhile better bars with more attractive women a few doors down stay quiet.
Then again the three bars way over on Street 108 centered around the ancient Golden Vine continue to stay in business. That’s true even though none of these bars are really good or even in a good location. Maybe they have old leases with cheap locked in rent or something. Who knows?
What’s next for girlie bars?
Even though a number of hostess bars in Phnom Penh have disappeared, it doesn’t seem like they will top coming. New places open all the time even as so many others shut their doors for good. Some places are decked out with decorations that have to cost a lot of money. Then weeks later they are gone.
Existing places are changing too. Some people have been talking about the decision by one bar on Street 136 to put up Chinese signs. Local law says signs have to display business names in Khmer first, then other languages. In reality, a lot of businesses do whatever they want. With the influx of Chinese people into Cambodia, its no surprise that a hostess bar would try to appeal to them. Apparently some are taking the bait too. Chinese guys used to mainly stick to the sexy karaoke places. Now they are showing up in hostess bars too.
Meanwhile down by the beach, whole swaths of hostess bars have been wiped out. Tens of thousands of Chinese people have traveled to Sihanoukville and the place is totally transformed. Buildings are going up everywhere including a lot of Chinese casinos. A lot of the girlie bars in Sihanoukville have been eliminated, but some are still making a go of it.
A new pack of bars has opened in an old Sihanoukville youth center, which is at least somewhat creepy. Only the name remains though. It no longer has anything to do with youth or social services, if indeed it ever did. The place has been totally transformed. I don’t know if the bars will make it, but some of them look pretty good. I will have to investigate and post on the subject again in the future.