Vancouver's Escobar restaurant pushes back against critics renewing calls for a name change

A Vancouver restaurant is facing renewed calls to change its name.

Escobar, located on Fraser Street, faced fierce backlash from the city’s Colombian community, who said the restaurant’s name was inappropriate and insensitive.

On May 11, the restaurant’s opening day, protesters lined the sidewalk outside the eatery calling for the name to be changed.

WATCH: Escobar restaurant opens amidst protests

Now an open letter from Vancouver’s Food Policy Council, a civic agency that advises city council on issues relating to food policy, is renewing calls for the owners to re-think the name of
the restaurant.

The letter, dated Nov. 5, is written “in solidarity” with the Latin American community, following their response to the restaurant’s launch.

“Five months have passed since its opening, and the question remains: how is a restaurant, whose owners claim no ties to the Latin American community, allowed to operate while bearing the
name of a known terrorist and murderer?” the letter reads.

Pablo Escobar, a notorious drug lord, led Colombia’s cocaine cartels in a violent and bloody drug war.

The restaurant’s owners have said the eatery’s name has nothing to do with Pablo Escobar.

LISTEN: Vancouver’s Escobar restaurant faces backlash from Colombian community

“The unwillingness of the business owners to engage in dialogue with members of the Latin American community after many attempts, and antagonistic responses towards those who have raised
questions about their business, contradict what we believe to be a just and sustainable food system built on respect and dignity.”

The council says Escobar restaurant’s “publicity strategy glorifies violence” and ignores the trauma felt by those who lived in Colombia throughout the years Pablo Escobar was alive.

“When a restaurant is named after someone who is responsible for heinous crimes, mass displacement and the death of thousands of people, it automatically targets, victimizes, and alienates
members of the community who have been affected by those historical events,” the letter reads.

READ MORE: Vancouver’s new resto Escobar blasted for name shared with notorious cocaine kingpin

The council says Escobar restaurant is not operating under the key principles of the 2007 Vancouver Food Charter, saying the food is not culturally appropriate, the
business poses a threat to “people’s dignity and personal and social well-being” and “fails to reflect meaningful dialogue between community and the food sector.”

This isn’t the first letter the restaurant’s owners have received. Colombia’s Ambassador to Canada, Nicolás Lloreda Ricaurte, penned a response to the owners, expressing his discontent.

“I dare to think that Canadians would be similarly offended if someone opened a restaurant named after Robert ‘Willie’ Pickton, Marc Lepine, or after the individual responsible for the
senseless recent attack on innocent people in Toronto,” Lloreda Ricaurte wrote.

The food policy council is calling on members of the food service and hospitality industry to be mindful of the names they choose and stand in solidarity with
communities when they voice concerns. They’re also calling on the city to take action through it’s powers and through advocacy.

Escobar management calls council’s comments “unprofessional”

In response to the open letter, Escobar’s owners released a statement calling the Vancouver Food Policy Council’s open letter “unprofessional.” They say no one from the council contacted
them for an official statement.

“We are not planning to change our name, we have worked hard to build our clientele and are trying to move forward from this whole ordeal,” the statement reads.

The owners say they’ve met with three members of the Latino community — Paola Murillo from Latincouver, Jorge Posada representing the Vancouver’s Colombian community and Yudi Sonnichsen from ExpoPlaza Latina.

“Our guests can attest to the fact that there is no theme of narco-terrorism anywhere in our establishment; yet we are receiving threats again,” the owners, Ari Demosten and Alex Kyriazis,

“The people making these claims have not stepped foot in our establishment, they have not seen or even spoke with us, yet they choose to make false claims.”

The food policy council declined to comment, deferring instead to the Latino community.

We did not receive a response from the City of Vancouver.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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