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Melbourne restaurant 'Pablo's Escoburgers' won’t change its name despite uproar

Combo image: The Pablo's Escoburgers logo (R) and the 'Patron' burger. Source: Facebook

The owner of a Melbourne restaurant which makes reference to notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar has rejected calls to change its name despite outrage from the Colombian community.

Vaughan Marks, the owner of Melbourne pop-up burger kitchen Pablo's Escoburgers has spoken to SBS Spanish about the controversy surrounding the name of his restaurant.

He said the name intended to be a “funny pun” which only “alluded” to Pablo Escobar, not “glorified” him.   

The comments come amid criticism on the restaurant's Facebook page, with many calling for the name to be changed and that it "celebrated" the notorious drug lord - a claim Mr Marks denied. 

"If it hurts so much and they want us to change the name, then let's do it for a reason, if we can gather all those who are against the name, and work as a team to raise $100 million for a charity of their choice, then If we can raise that amount of money, we will change the name, that makes sense to me," Mr Marks said. 

"Let's make this pain worthwhile and let's help a charity that can solve a problem in this world."

Pablo's Escoburgers
A hotdog sold at the restaurant.

Mr Marks opened the kitchen inside his bar in the district of Prahran in January.

"There has always been a fascination for films like Blow or Scarface, so we thought that the name we gave to our business could be appropriate, and the name is a point of difference," Mr Marks said.

"It's not his name, Pablo's Escoburgers is just a play on words, I do not defend Pablo and I do not want to glorify him, I think he was a horrible person, but it occurred to us to play with words, because it sounded funny, but this does not mean that Pablo is funny or that everything he has done is funny."

Among the burgers sold at the restaurant is the ‘Patron,’ which includes a line of white garlic powder, and served with a fake US $100 bill.

Other burgers are named 'sicario' and 'billetico', which translate to 'hitman' and 'a large amount of money' respectively.

Colombians outraged

More than 25 years since Pablo Escobar was killed by police in the city of Medellín, his legacy of violence continues to live on in those who lived through it, Angy Rojas told SBS Spanish. 

Before arriving in Sydney on a student visa, Ms Rojas worked for the Colombian government in programs aimed at helping communities deal with the aftermath of Escobar.

She said Mr Marks needed to learn more about the history and legacy of Escobar.

"I tell the owners of this restaurant that if what they want is a creative title, then first they should find out more about what they’re promoting and they should have social conscience and respect for the pain of others," she said. 

"This person killed more than 15,000 innocent people, carried out more than 600 terrorist attacks, paid common criminals in Medellín to kill our police officers and with that campaign killed more than 500 policemen." 

Pablo Escobar Colombia
Pablo Escobar, the godfather of the Medellin Cartel, in Colombia in 1988.

Juan Jaramillo, from the city of Cali, voiced his opposition to the name of the Melbourne shop.

He said his opposition came because of the name's association with Escobar, who he said created a cultural and social battle for Colombians and that the people were still trying to overcome both fronts.

"I lived in Europe and I remember that once I was with a Colombian friend and someone asked us what language we were speaking and where we were from. We told them about Colombia. And then the kids said, 'oh! Pablo Escobar', and made a gesture like wiping their noses," he said.

"Obviously they were joking, but when they saw our faces, they apologised and asked for explanations. Then we told them about the whole tragedy."

Mr Marks defended his right to freedom of expression.

"We are in Australia and we are free to call our business the name we want, our customers like the name, they laugh and certainly do not associate it with a glorified assassin."

Juan Ruiz, a Colombian from the capital Bogota, agreed with Mr Marks’ remarks about freedom of expression, but said he was attempting to "simplify the issue".

"Freedom of expression is something that must be defended, however, you need to know how far you can take your freedom of expression before it starts to affect others," he said. 

"Surely, if I opened a shop with everything related to Hitler, praising him or making fun of the Holocaust, I would offend a lot of people and in my opinion, I would cross the limits of acceptance of that kind of thing. For me it is an offence for this person to use the name, just to get attention."