Escobar the restaurant is pictured in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, May, 1, 2018. A Latin-themed restaurant in Vancouver is drawing criticism for the name it shares with a famed Colombian drug lord linked to thousands of deaths. A spokeswoman for Escobar restaurant said they aren’t trying to make a statement or offend anyone with the name. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

New B.C. restaurant Escobar takes heat for ‘insensitive’ name

“They’re glorifying a name that brings so much pain”

A Latin-themed restaurant in Vancouver is drawing criticism for the name it shares with a notorious Colombian drug lord linked to thousands of deaths.

A spokeswoman for Escobar said the restaurant owners aren’t trying to make a political statement or offend anyone with the name.

However, Paola Murillo, executive director for Latincouver, a non-profit cultural society in Vancouver, said the name ignores and romanticizes the damage Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel caused over 30 years in South America and the United States.

“They’re glorifying a name that brings so much pain,” Murillo said. “For us, it’s the fear we have with him. For me it brings me back to my younger years, and I don’t think it’s fair for any Colombians to go through that …. Just talking about this brings a knot to my stomach.”

“You wouldn’t eat at a place called Hitler’s or Bin Laden’s,” she said.

Murillo said she reached out to restaurant co-owners co-owners Alex Kyriazis and Ari Demosten to discuss the name, saying she doesn’t want to see the restaurant fail because of what it’s called.

“We’re a community of 100,000 Latin Americans living in Vancouver and I think we’re quite supportive of each other … but I think it’s in their best interest to reconsider.”

Neither Kyriazis nor Demosten responded to a request for an interview.

Escobar’s executive chef Sarah Kashani said the restaurant owners are deeply apologetic if they offended anyone but will keep the name.

“We’re entertainment, we’re a restaurant. It’s a very common name in Latin culture,” she said.

Kashani said restaurants and bars elsewhere in Canada have used the name Escobar while other establishments using criminals’ names, including Capone’s, also exist.

“We are inclusive of the community, we want everyone to feel good when they come in here,” she said.

“We are by no means trying to promote Pablo Escobar, we didn’t name our restaurant Pablo Escobar, we named it Escobar, which is a play on words,” she said of the bar and restaurant.

“We have absolute respect for the pain and suffering of these people,” she said of those affected by Escobar’s crimes.

Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cocaine cartel was responsible for thousands of deaths. He died in 1993 during a shootout with Colombian police.

Diana Patricia Aguilar Pulido, consul general of Colombia in Vancouver, said Escobar was responsible for “what is arguably the darkest episode of Columbian history.”

“From some of the publicity, it is evident that this restaurant wants to be popular and make a profit based on a character that provided terrible suffering to countless Colombian widows, parents, children and families of all sectors of society,” she said in a statement.

She invited the owners of the restaurant to learn about “the real Colombia” and reconsider the name.

“How would a Canadian feel if somebody opened up a restaurant named Marc Lepine … ,” she said of the gunman who killed 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.

Murillo, of Latincouver, said she’s heard some people are planing an opening-day protest at the restaurant on May 11, but said marching in the street is not the answer.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to (the owners), I know how much money and time and effort and love they’ve put into their business,” she said. ”People have been sending me messages, but I think it would be better if people talked to the owners before.”

Kashani said she’d be happy to provide appetizers for the protesters and welcomes a discussion about the name. But she said police may also be present given recent threats directed at the restaurant.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Kitselas receives $700K in forest sector funding

Ottawa investments target land reclamation and biomass energy study

Great BC ShakeOut returns to test earthquake readiness

More than 5,000 residents in the Kitimat-Stikine regional district participated this year

A rundown of what legalized marijuana means for Terrace

A summary of the updated city bylaws, online provincial sales, and what isn’t allowed

Man sprayed with bear mace

Police briefs from Oct. 5-11

Northern Savings buys old Dairy Queen building

Old Prince Rupert DQ building has been vacant in since the 1990s

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

B.C. teen gives away tickets to Ellen Degeneres show, plans O Canada welcome

The Grade 9 student wanted to give away tickets in the spirit of inclusivity

Canada’s top general takes aim at new reports of military sexual assault

Gen. Jonathan Vance is unhappy some troops continue to ignore his order to cease all sexual misconduct

Most Read