The owner of a Singapore bar named "Escobar" said a picture of the Colombian drug lord may have been a bad choice after angry complaints and a warning from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).
The gastropub in the financial district has drawn the attention of Singapore's drug enforcement agency as well as a complaint from the Colombian embassy and angry reaction from anonymous callers that included death threats.
The owner, Stan Sri Ganesh, said the name and picture of Pablo Escobar, who was killed in a police operation in 1993, on its sign had seemed perfect for the bar he opened in January.
That opinion changed after a visit on Wednesday by the police and the Central Narcotics Bureau agents. "Our intention was never to offend a particular individual or a community," Ganesh told Reuters. "We also never intended to condone the actions of Pablo Escobar."
In a joint statement from the CNB and Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Friday (Feb 9), it called the naming of the bar after a drug lord "highly objectionable" and also "irresponsible".
Said the CNB and SPF: "That Pablo Escobar’s name and image are being used to promote the bar is highly objectionable and runs counter to Singapore’s zero tolerance approach towards drugs and our efforts in preventive drug education. The glamorisation of
a drug kingpin and associated drug use is irresponsible."
"While we acknowledge that some businesses may adopt certain themes or associations as part of their marketing strategy, this should be done in a manner consistent with Singapore’s policies to keep our country safe and secure."
It added that the owner of the bar has agreed to "remove all references to drugs and Pablo Escobar", and that they will be monitoring the situation to ensure that the rectifications are made.
Ganesh said he wasn't happy to be changing the bar's logo with the picture of Escobar, which had cost him $20,000 in additional expenses.
Some curious patrons thought nothing of the association with the infamous drug dealer. "I mean if the owner of Escobar actually wanted to open a'drug place', it would not be right smack in the middle of town," customer Katie Kang said.
Ganesh said he was baffled by the reaction by the Colombian embassy, which had sent a three-page letter to Singapore's foreign ministry expressing its "serious concern" that the bar"pays tribute to the worst criminal in the history of Colombia". Ganesh said he had no plans to change the name of the pub.