Escobar bistro to remove references to drug lord with oversight by CNB and police

A large balloon at the entrance of Escobar bistro. Photo: Vernon Lee/Yahoo News Singapore
A large balloon at the entrance of Escobar bistro. Photo: Vernon Lee/Yahoo News Singapore

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) will “monitor closely” the removal of all references to Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar at Escobar bistro, the authorities said in a joint statement on Friday (9 February).

The announcement comes after the Colombian embassy in Singapore protested against using the image of the deceased head of the Medellin drug cartel for the bar’s theme in a letter to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Friday. Escobar bistro told Yahoo News Singapore in an interview on Thursday that the bar in China Square Central will retain its name but change the logo and décor after consultations with the authorities.

The theme, logo and interior design of a food and beverage establishment do not come under the SPF’s licensing conditions for public entertainment outlets, the statement said.

“However, 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,” it added.

In the interview, the owner of the bar, Stan Sri Ganesh, 35, apologised for any offence caused to anyone by the use of the drug kingpin’s image.

“We are very sorry, our intention was never to offend a particular individual or a community. Our intention was to have everyone come here and enjoy this place as how it is, without having to feel like there is a hole in their wallet,” said Stan, who stressed that the bar has never done anything illegal.

Stan told Yahoo News Singapore that the bar has already spent $20,000 on the paraphernalia bearing Pablo Escobar’s image, including a large balloon outside the bar, mugs, name cards, and murals on the walls. These will soon be dumped or revamped.

The bar is looking to spend another $10,000 to implement the changes, which include having an artist to redesign the murals.

Meanwhile, Stan said he plans to file police reports over a number of death threats that he and his family have received as a result of the controversy, on the advice of the SPF.

CNB and SPF said they take “a serious view” of establishments that put up displays or references which glamorise drug use or criminal activities.

The authorities added, “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.”