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I Love You, You Pay My Rent

By: Tim Russell Posted: September-24-2009 in
Tim Russell

This Friday will be a sad day for Saigon’s nightlife scene when Cantina Central, the city’s only Mexican bar/restaurant, closes its doors after a successful two-year stint. I have particularly fond memories of the place having DJ’d there at several Saigon Soul Brothers nights with my fellow funkateer Mr Pete Murray (aka the Saigon Pieman). The food was always affordable and authentic, and the owner, the charismatic Othello Khanh, always on hand with generously poured margharitas.

Newcomers to the city always ask me why bars in Saigon open and close with such amazing frequency, and the answer is always the same – greedy landlords. Not even a global recession can prevent Vietnamese landlords from hiking up prices when contracts come to an end, or even before they come to an end in many cases. During the boom years rents shot up, now there’s a recession on, and they seem to be shooting up even higher!

What generally happens is an expat rents a space, spends money fitting out into a bar/restaurant, and has a successful first year or so. The landlord sees how much money is coming in and decides he wants a piece of the action, so he either hikes up the rent, usually meaning he’s left with an empty property, or he kicks them out and tries to take over the business himself, which generally results in failure when the customers follow the bar owner to his new venue. Basically a lose-lose business scenario.

In recent months the area around Pasteur/Ton That Thiep has, thanks to plenty of cheap rent buildings, become a lively bar area, and Cantina Central was a pioneer in this respect. As landlords see the bars filling up every night (Phattys seems to be proving particularly successful), are they going to force more of these bars to close and turn the area back into a social graveyard? Let’s hope that, for once, common sense prevails and that Saigon’s burgeoning bar scene is allowed to continue thriving. It is, after all, an asset in both tourism and expat terms.

As David Lloyd George once said:

“The landlord is a gentleman who does not earn his wealth. He never sees it until he comes to enjoy it. His sole function, his chief pride, is the stately consumption of wealth produced by others.”

user avatar Anonymous

Rent Control

It's always sad when good restaurants go under. There have been a few go under here in the Philippines that I miss greatly too.
In this country, there is a law that foreigners can not own land/realestate.
If that same law does not exist in Viet Nam, a restaurant/bar might be a good venture for expats. Or else, come on over to Angeles City and lets have a taco...


Great memories of sitting

Great memories of sitting around on the little secret alcove at the back on my many visits there.
CC - Will be missed

user avatar Anonymous

i will miss the place.

i will miss the place. here's the link for the last taco.


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