The owners of a cafe in Singapore have stoked controversy after using the first name of infamous Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar on their logo and promotional material, but vowed to make changes in response.
In an interview with local lifestyle magazine 8 Days to promote the launch of Pablo’s Kitchen in April, the three owners were quoted as saying they were “huge fans” of the Netflix series Narcos, whose earlier seasons centered on Escobar’s life in Colombia, his violent rise as a cocaine trafficker, and his death in a shootout with law enforcement. The show won international acclaim but also drew criticism for glorifying Escobar and feeding into a narrative of racist stereotypes.
On the menu at Pablo’s Kitchen were items such as sicario (“hitman”) and cartel chicken and beef burgers. The Facebook page and Instagram accounts also show a logo with the name, a drawing of Escobar’s visage from the Netflix series, and two crossed knives.
“The branding is very memorable and ‘in your face,’” co-owner Alex Neo was quoted as saying in the magazine.
He added: “If the food is good, we can call it anything – people will still come.”
“If the food is good, we can call it anything – people will still come.”
But after a handful of angry comments criticizing the name choice on Instagram, the owners addressed the decision on their social media accounts this week and said they would be making some unspecified alterations to the restaurant.
“Though Pablo’s Kitchen may seem to have drawn some link to a certain Drug-lord, we want to be clear that our team dispraises [sic] his crimes in narcoterrorism,” a Facebook post said, adding that some of the art was drawn from the image of the DEA agent who helped take Escobar down.
“Like the Netflix TV series, Pablo’s Kitchen is drawn to the story of the crackdown on drugs. To prevent misunderstanding, we will be making changes to our space in the coming week.”
VICE World News spoke to a representative from Pablo’s Kitchen who said they were addressing the criticism and had no further comment to add. They also confirmed that operations were still continuing.
The eatery was also promoted on Facebook by a local government district arm. The post has since been removed.
Escobar was killed in the dramatic shootout in 1993 after a turbulent career that rocked Colombia and led to the deaths of countless victims.
But his name lives on in various media, which document his escapades and life of crime. Restaurants in Australia and New Zealand have cashed in on Escobar’s post mortem fame, releasing burgers named after him.
In Singapore too, another bar named “Escobar” opened to much fanfare in 2018, offering Narcos-themed food. Its walls were adorned with paintings of the drug lord — prompting the Colombian embassy to lodge an official complaint with the government.
“The Embassy of the Republic of Colombia wants to share information to refresh the horror that this criminal caused in Colombia, not to mention the drug addictions he promoted and the wars he declared,” the statement said at the time.
The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pablo’s Kitchen.
Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.