SINGAPORE (Reuters) - 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 narcotics agency in a country known for its zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs.
The gastropub in the city-state’s 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.
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.”
The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) had said it would be keeping a “very close watch” and told the owner to uphold a strict anti-drug policy, Singapore’s Channel News Asia reported, citing a CNB spokesperson.
The CNB declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
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.
Additional reporting by Fathin Ungku; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait