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Phnom Penh’s Bassac Lane slowly gets back to business

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
The once popular party street is reopening after months of police closures. KT/Chor Sokunthea

After more than a month of inactivity, Street 308, also known as Bassac Lane, is slowly getting back to normal, with an increasing number of businesses opening their doors to customers.

Early last month, the area, which is a favourite hangout for expats, “descended into gloom” after authorities ordered the temporary closure of many restaurants, bars and other business establishments. At that time, policemen, some them carrying AK-47 assault rifles, came to shoo away the people who normally congregate in the area at night after work to dine or drink until the wee hours.

The move was ostensibly meant to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The area, which normally attracts hundreds of foreigners and locals every night, turned into what some termed as a “Ghost Town” – deserted streets, shut businesses and very few people in sight.

But things are slowly changing after a month, with the Coronavirus problem in Cambodia apparently under control.

A check of Bassac Lane yesterday evening showed that many businesses are already open. Customers are also trickling back, though at numbers far smaller than before.

The owner of Nike’s Pizza House, a popular restaurant that offers Cambodian, Western and Asian cuisine, said few customers have been coming to their place.

“We only have food here. We are still not allowed to sell beer or alcohol,” he said, noting that the police come from time to time to check on the establishments.

But the restaurant owner was optimistic that things will change for the better soon. “I heard that the Government will re-open this place next month,” he said.

A staff at the newly-opened H-Club by the name of Rizza said customers are coming back to their establishment. The restaurant part of H-Club is already serving food, while the night club remains shut.

“Tonight, there are very few of them. There were more them in the past few days,” she stressed.

Namaste India, Piccola Italia Da Luigi, Electric Kitchen (formerly Jungle Cat), Tonle Poke Sushi and other food establishments in the vicinity have also started to attract more people.

Piccola Italia Da Luigi, for one, attracted a group of Chinese customers on Monday evening. In the past few weeks, the normally-full Italian restaurant has struggled to bring in one or two customers at a time.

Likewise, the Phnom Penh Yacht Club, Red Bar and Brass Monkey were open for business, with nearly 20 customers between them, mostly Western expats.

In addition to the businesses and customers, vehicular traffic is also coming to the area and the roads leading to it. And unlike before, the heavy police presence in the area, appeared to have diminished considerably.

But there are still more than a few popular hangouts that remained shut until now. These include Party Patio, Le Boutier and Littlewine Bistro. “The Bus”, a double-decker converted into a cocktail lounge, is still nowhere to be found. M&D Bar, where people often congregate on weekends to watch live bands perform, is similarly closed for now.

Also nowhere to be found for now in Bassac Lane are the throng of tuktuk drivers that regularly and noisily wait for passengers there.

But with the health crisis winding down in Phnom Penh and other parts of Cambodia, we can expect that in a month or two all businesses will return and Bassac lane will be back to its former self.

Currently, Cambodia has 124 cases of Coronavirus infection, with only two cases added to the tally in nearly a month.

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