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Tips on opening night bar etiquette from a new boozehound about town

By: EAS Staff Posted: January-01-2006 in
EAS Staff

As a young(ish) man about town I somehow seem to have found myself on Phnom Penh's invitation A-list. Back home, I struggled to get invited to a funeral. All my friends were forever in the Sunday social pages whilst I was the very definition of a pariah.

But in my new town, apparently, no opening night can be complete without me and I am in high demand . The rate at which invitations are thrust at me is alarming and just last week I found myself in possession of four glossy cards begging me to attend new venues to quaff free drinks and gorge on free food. Who am I to say no? But really, I have to be honest. The terms 'A-List' and 'Phnom Penh' are actually mutually exclusive. I found one invite on the road. Motodops indiscriminately bombarded me with another and the other two came by way of third parties. Sigh.

However, having attended so many pre-opening / opening / launch / membership / exclusive / blah blah nights recently in Phnom Penh, I have observed a few simple things which I think are invaluable for the new bar owner who wishes to launch their new bar with fanfare and aplomb. These are just my observations and I hope by listing them I do not find myself suddenly bereft of invitations because I love free food and I love a free beer.

Firstly, when you decide to have your opening night, make sure the venue's renovations are actually finished. A working bathroom is necessary after a lot of free plonk (overflow is ugly) and nobody likes wet paint marks on their (fake) Armani shirt. A couple of weeks ago I went to a bar opening and as I conversed with a colleague, a large blob of white gloop hit his head. At first I thought it was just random Phnom Penh seagull pooh, but then I reminded myself that there are no seagulls here. Alas ... the ceiling paint was fresh and as I looked around I soon realised that there would be a few upset punters in the morning.

Secondly, some door security never goes astray and for goodness sakes do NOT issue a wholesale invite to your Khmer building contractor. Failure to adhere to these two points may result in a near riot. Last night at a fly new venue we watched as street urchins invaded and freshy boys on souped up scooters arrived en masse to take advantage of the free buffet. Platters of fine fare were hastily dispatched down Norodom Boulevard and the free beer was drained faster than you could say "who invited you?".

Thirdly, train your staff in advance. If I ask for a free beer, I want a free beer, damn it. I don't want a 7up with Kahluah nor do I want directions to the Department of Fisheries. Just give me the beer ok? At least show them where the beer is. That's a good start! In line with this point, HAVE LOTS OF GLASSES and GET SOMEONE TO COLLECT THE EMPTIES ALL NIGHT! I do not want to be told I cannot have a free beer because there are no glasses. Recently I had to resort to what I call "Opening Night Guerilla Tactics". I found myself collecting my own glasses from unwary punters viz; "Hi, can I take your empty glass and would you like a fresh drink?" Fools.

Finally and most importantly...stay cool in the face of adversity and have fun ! Just like a new bride at her wedding reception, this is YOUR night. I am not suggesting you wear a white silk dress but if you look stressed out and sweaty, so will all your new customers. Delegate. Drink. Be the life of the party. Crack a joke or two. DO NOT bark orders at your UNTRAINED staff, swear at the FREELOADING street crowd or express dismay at the SEAGULL SHIT. It is all your doing remember! The buck stops with you. Just go with the flow, give me a free beer or ten and I will more than likely, probably, maybe see you again sometime.

Oh yeah-and definitely, absolutely, 100 percent do not skimp on the free food, ok?


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