With the night life thriving through the busy rickshaw infested streets of Thamel, there are many cafes, bars, and clubs to escape the madness that roam the streets. Places like Purple Haze, Fire Club, and Full Moon all provide music and somewhere to drink and unwind from the day, but one bar stands out from all the other. Entering the small narrow corridors of Sam’s Bar, you are brought into a whole new world of rock and roll. Personal quotes and philosophies are written all across the walls, only to walk up the stairs to find that the entire bar is covered with them. Songs by The Pixies, Joy Division, and Red Hot Chili Peppers ooze out of the top terrace and onto the unsuspecting people on the street. This is the bar where the spirits of Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and many other artists still live on.
In December of 1990, Verena, also known as V, met her future husband by the name of Sam. After their encounter in Nepal, Sam’s and Verena’s relationship began to blossom; V would visit Sam in Nepal and Sam would go to Austria to see her. This traveling dance between the two lovers, led Verena to live in Nepal for a year and soak in the language and culture. Finally, V settled on the idea of living with Sam in Nepal. She believed that it was easier for her to adapt to the Nepali way of life than it would be for Sam to adapt in Austria. So in the year of 1996, Verena became a permanent resident in Nepal.
It was hard for V to find a job around Kathmandu at first. At the time, the only occupations that really provided any work in Nepal was being a doctor or engineer; fields that V absolutely no experience in what so ever. Luckily, Verena decided that she would try and open up a pub somewhere around the Thamel area, so with the love and support of her recently wedded husband, they went off looking for locations that were for sale. The path was a bit difficult for them, as plans and deals fell through with every landowner that they spoke with. Prices that were previously negotiated would be changed or landowners would say that it’s no longer for sale. No one really understood the concept of opening up a place that served alcohol without food. The image that fell behind pubs and bars was that they brought in a lot of bad noise and trouble from people, who were looking to get drunk and fight with anyone they could get their hands on. Even Thamel in the 90’s was seen as an evil place by the conservative type, where only the lowest of the low go to steal and drink.
By a stroke of luck, Sam was finally able to find a place. The landlord didn’t understand what it was that Verena was doing. Asking her if it was a restaurant, Verena explained that she will only be serving alcohol. Fortunately, after the troubles he had encountered with his last tenants, he was happy to make a deal with her just as long as she kept the business clean and didn’t have trouble paying on time. At a first glance, V hated the new place. She envisioned her bar to stretch out far enough to fit maybe twenty seats. Instead, she was stuck with a large outside terrace and an inside area that seemed too small for anything. This didn’t stop her from making her vision come true though. Verena made the plan of opening up the once closed wall, making it an arch way that combined the new inside bar with the outside terrace. She ran into more trouble though, when the construction workers refused to take orders from her and asked for the man of the business. Sam shook his head and pointed back at V, saying that the only person they should be talking to is the owner of the bar. With Sam’s support, Verena was able to get everything she needed together so that she can finally open up her pub. She painted the walls in a simple red and yellow color, calling it her “Nepali color”.
Verena was able to get the bar up and running in 1997 and as an ode to her loving husband the place was named Sam’s Pub. With a deep love and appreciation for music, V provided Thamel with a new place, where people can go to learn a thing or two about great music. After around two months of the bar being successfully open, V decided to turn Saturdays into a reggae music night. Her reasoning behind this decision was that since Saturday was a holiday for the locals, she wanted to provide them with music that she knew they would like. Even with the one night of the week dedicated to a specific genre, Sam’s Bar manages to play music that the typical rock fanatic can appreciate. Like any good host, V scans the audience to see what the mood is for the night and what hasn’t been played. She throws in artists like Kings of Leon, Pink Floyd, and even Mumford and Sons when the atmosphere for the night has been set. She knows that not every night will be a hit for her regulars and it’s a fact that you can’t please everyone, but V still tries her best to make the night with songs that she love.
A month after setting up the reggae night, a group of Australian tourist came to visit her bar. After a few drinks in their system, the night had been loose and anything would go. They went up to V and asked if it’s possible to place a picture of the tour bus that was taking them from Australia to London up on the wall. She gladly accepted, thinking nothing of it. As they left, V noticed that under the picture was some scribbling that the Aussies had written. Once the wall was christened, other people began to ask for her permission to put their own wise words on the wall. Soon enough the whole bar was covered in ink and the new look for Sam’s Bar was made.
Throughout the years, V has managed to keep the pub going without any trouble. Hiring staff that she personally trains, she looks for people who will fit in with the crowd and are willing to work as a team without any complaints. With the current staff greeting you with a smile and remembering your face after only coming once, it’s clear that she has found the perfect fit for her bar. She even makes sure to take care of them, knowing that they are the backbone to her work. She turns down any tips that are offered to her and tell the customers that they go straight to the staff. This is Verena’s way of expressing her gratefulness to her work and staff.
Looking back at her life, V would have never expected to be where she wound up. “If you told me back in 94’ that I was going to open up a bar in Nepal, I would have thought you were crazy,” Verena mentions looking back at her experiences. Nonetheless, she doesn’t regret a single thing. As her last words for the interview she says, “Even if I lived in Mexico or wherever, I still wouldn’t know how my life would turn out and it’s been a great experience. There have been tough times, but that is life.”