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The Colombian embassy and community in Singapore are upset with the name and theme of Escobar in China Square Central. Photo: Escobar Singapore/Facebook

Colombian embassy condemns Singapore bar named after drug lord

The country’s Central narcotics Bureau has also taken issue with the three-week-old ‘Escobar’


By Siau Ming-en

A bar named after Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar found itself in a tricky situation after the Embassy of Colombia in Singapore and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) took issue with its theme.

The embassy confirmed that it had sent an official note to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to denounce the three-week-old nightspot named Escobar in China Square Central. The venue features themes related to the late Colombian, who led the Medellin drug cartel known for its cocaine trade.

A CNB spokesperson said that the manner in which 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 to the Government’s efforts in preventive drug education.

“The glamorisation of a drug kingpin and associated drug use is irresponsible and insensitive,” the CNB spokesperson told TODAY.

Pablo Escobar became one of the richest man in the world in the 1980s by dealing in cocaine. He was also behind a violent campaign that bombed, kidnapped and killed thousands of people, including politicians, judges and journalists who stood in his way. In 1993, he was shot and killed by the Colombian police.

While the embassy declined to disclose its official note to the bar, a report on Yahoo Singapore’s site quoted the embassy saying in the note that the bar would confuse customers and justify criminal actions, and undermine the work that the successive governments have been endeavouring.

The embassy also took issue with the way the bar had modelled itself after the Netflix drama series Narcos, and asked the Singapore Government to give due attention to its concern and take necessary actions to reverse this harmful image.

The series, now in its third season and shot entirely in Colombia, covers the drug wars, the Medellin cartel, and the rise and fall of its leader Pablo Escobar.

CNB understands that some Singaporeans have expressed concerns online, and the Colombian embassy and community in Singapore are also very upset.

“CNB and the Singapore Police Force will be engaging the owner of the bar and will take the necessary action to uphold our strict anti-drug policy. It will also be keeping a very close watch on the bar and its patrons to ensure that no illegal drug activities take place there,” its spokesperson added.

Owner Stan Sri Ganesh, 36, told TODAY that the police contacted him on Monday to have a chat with him at the Police Cantonment Complex. Adding that he will be going down on Wednesday, Mr Ganesh said that it would be good to find out what are the issues at hand.

He expected some backlash on the theme of his bar, but did not think that it would escalate to this present scenario.

The bar had already received a handful of negative comments on its Facebook page, with online users calling for the bar to be burnt down and others ticking off the owner for being “ignorant”.

“I knew that (some) would hate the idea that I called it Escobar, but I also knew there would be a big segment that would love (it)... If you enter the bar, you will realise for yourself that there is nothing that glorifies him as a hero or a legend or someone who is a saint,” he added.

Mr Ganesh had considered other themes, but picked one themed around Pablo Escobar because he wanted something that would stand out among the competition. The last name “Escobar” also contained the word “bar”, which reflected the business he was running.

“I’m a businessman… I felt that this was an interesting concept especially with all the hype created (with the show Narcos). We have a lot of Singaporeans who are in love with the show,” he said.