Downtown Phoenix cocktail bar Khla has closed | Phoenix New Times


Asian-inspired cocktail bar Khla has closed

The once popular bar was shaken by scandal last year. Now, it has permanently closed.
Khla, the Southeast Asian-inspired bar behind Lom Wong Thai restaurant, has closed.
Khla, the Southeast Asian-inspired bar behind Lom Wong Thai restaurant, has closed. Allison Young
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Khla, the Southeast Asian-inspired cocktail lounge in downtown Phoenix, has closed.

The bar opened to local fanfare in March 2022 – a second offering from Tyka Chheng, Colton Brock and John Sagasta, the team that opened the buzzy cocktail camper Baby Boy at The Pemberton the year prior.

Khla, which means tiger in Khmer, was an alley bar that was housed, effectively, in the backyard of the house that is home to Thai restaurant Lom Wong on Portland Street.
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The Manila Vice (left) is made with ube, which gives the cocktail its characteristic purple color. It was one of Khla's eye-catching cocktails that infused Asian ingredients.
Tirion Boan

Bar lauded for celebration of Asian flavors

Chheng translated his own flavor memories, like Thai tea or Ramune sodas, into cocktail form, pulling on elements from his childhood. Chheng's parents hail from Cambodia and Asian ingredients were celebrated across the menu at Khla.

“The menu is heavily influenced by his personal life and draws on flavors that aren't typical of Phoenix cocktails,” read the Phoenix New Times Best of Phoenix award naming Khla the Best Place to Take a Drink Geek in 2022.

Among the creative cocktails was the eye-catching Manila Vice, a bright purple drink made with Filipino rum, dark Jamaican rum, ube, coconut, calamansi citrus, orange and pineapple. It came topped with mochi candies. Lom Wong offered a small array of bar snacks for drinkers.

Just as Khla was getting off the ground, the ownership trio announced plans for a third bar and restaurant, Liar’s Club, in July 2022. Brock would run the bar program, and Chheng, who worked as a chef before becoming a bartender, was slated to make his return to the kitchen.
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Tyka Chheng, who helped open cocktail bars Baby Boy and Khla, was ousted after accusations of sexual harassment emerged on social media.
Photo by Will Coles/Courtesy Misa Hospitality

Accusations against Chheng emerge

As the downtown spot readied to open, a series of sexual harassment allegations against Chheng were shared on social media in November.

At least twice, Chheng offered to pay women $200 to $1,000 to perform sex acts, according to screenshots of the conversations reviewed by New Times. Women also alleged that Chheng had followed them or tried to go home with them as they were getting picked up by ride-share services.

As the news broke, Brock and Sagasta ousted Chheng from their hospitality group.

"We have a strict zero tolerance policy for disrespect & disorderly conduct," a post shared across their bar accounts read. "It is with regret we have to inform you all that we were forced to say goodbye to one of our community members today due to an inability to abide by that policy."

Chheng did not respond to requests from the New Times for comment at the time but posted a statement to his personal Instagram page.

"I'm sorry, I want to right my wrongs the best way possible. I apologize to all those I hurt and to those who are in disbelief. I have taken a look — a long look to try [to] figure out how I got here. The human in me is completely embarrassed, mortified," he wrote.

After the accusations, the bar continued on, and over time, retired drinks from the initial menu. As of mid-September, the bar has served its final customers.

Co-owner Sagasta confirmed the closure and noted that it was a financial decision.

"It’s been hard for all of us to let go, as it held a special place in our hearts," he said. "Our staff was one of the tightest crews I’ve worked with and really cared about the place and each other. They’re an asset to our local industry and community."
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