A new Colombia-themed bar in Paris that features waiters in bullet-proof vests, cocktails named after famous cocaine traffickers and a portrait of drug lord Pablo Escobar has been accused by activists of glamorising the trade.

"Medellin" opened last November near the Champs-Elysees, hiding itself behind a fake shopfront for a tacos restaurant with a red neon sign -- "Chez Pablo" -- indicating what was inside.

The bar-nightclub has since become a hit with its young and wealthy clientele, not all of whom appear to understand all the references found on the menus and walls.

"Medellin" is Escobar's home town in Colombia, as well as the name of his cartel, while a vegetarian tacos dish called "Pacho Herrera" refers to the one of the heads of the deadly Cali cartel.

The "Maria Victoria" cocktail is named after Escobar's widow.

"Whether you want it or not, when you think about Medellin, you think of Pablo, but it's not the main theme of the bar," owner Andren Dimitris told AFP, denying that he was "idolising" him.

The Franco-Greek businessman, 37, admits that he removed a fake tomb for Escobar where clients could light a candle for him "because it offended the Colombian population."

The entrance hall to the bar, which features full-length mirrors, features the song "Tuyo" by Rodrigo Amarante, the music from the Netflix series "Narcos" which recounts the life of the late drug lord.

"There's a theme, but it's not against Colombians," said one client, a 23-year-old Parisian who gave her name as Lea. "It's just to have fun, for dancing."

But activists in Paris have campaigned against the nightspot, while pictures of it have sparked outrage on social media in Colombia where Escobar's brutal rein in the 1980s and 90s continues to divide people.

"As a Colombian, I find it shocking that we glorify publicly the most deadly killer in the history of Colombia," Juan David Castillo, who started the online group "Stop Medellin", told AFP.

"Pablo Escobar is responsible for the deaths of more than 5,000 people in Colombia... for me it's an insult that people can go dancing over there," the 35-year-old chef added.

Escobar was killed in a rooftop shootout with police in Medellin on December 2, 1993 -- one day after his 44th birthday.

According to Medellin officials, Colombia's drug violence killed 46,612 people from 1983 to 1994.

But the "cocaine king" is also remembered by some as a sort of Colombian Robin Hood because of his charity work which saw him distribute part of his incredible wealth to the poor.

"We're not playing the victims. It's just about reminding people who is the executioner and who are the victims in this story. And the hero is not the executioner," Angelica Toro, a 36-year-old psychiatrist from Medellin, said.