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When Esteban Mauricio Paredes arrived in Tokyo from Ecuador 12 years ago, he felt lucky to score an apartment through a friend. He didn’t feel so lucky, however, when he received a gas and electricity bill for the previous tenant. It wasn’t so much money, but anyone who has arrived in Tokyo looking for work will know that even a few thousand yen can hurt. Esteban found out that Miguel Angel Dillunde, his remiss predecessor, was working at a club in Roppongi. So off he went to meet Miguel and discover a friendly chap, who with a slap on the back and a little cash, sealed the deal on a new friendship.

Even back then, Esteban recalls, Miguel always talked about opening his own bar in Tokyo. Miguel grew up in a small town full of little bars on the Costa del Sol, which swells with tourists in summer. “It’s in my blood to be a bartender,” he often confided to Esteban.

It took almost 10 years, but Miguel finally realized his dream by opening Cafe Ole Bar in Shinjuku. Every night was fiesta, and Miguel was right at home.

Esteban added the finishing touches to the interior and came on board as Miguel’s right-hand man. But Miguel added the magic — flipping bottles better than Cruise in “Cocktail” and dealing a killer hand of blackjack to anyone with the cojones to take him on. Miguel was larger than life, which only heightened everyone’s shock when, two years later, he simply didn’t wake up one morning.

“We had become brothers,” says Esteban. “We even knew each other’s secret bank numbers!” He adds with a shudder, “Miguel had asked me to take care of Ole if anything ever happened to him. That’s why I want to keep the Shinjuku bar alive.” (If anyone is interested in taking over the lease, they should contact him directly). And by opening Ole Bar, Esteban has helped Miguel realize an unfulfilled dream — to own a bar in Roppongi.

“I was so lucky finding this space that I think Miguel must be pulling strings in heaven,” Esteban chuckles. We both laughed as we imagined Miguel whipping St. Peter at poker. Back on earth, Esteban describes how he crafted Ole Bar’s interior with his own two hands.

Compared to Cafe Ole, Ole Bar is relatively spacious, seating about 30. Mirror-lined walls and large plate-glass windows facing the street heighten the sense of space.

It was packed on the night advertised as the opening (June 2), though Esteban laughs as he tells of serving drinks off the bare concrete bar and calling an emergency repairman when the soda dispensers broke down. In fact, Bar Ole only officially opened a week ago. A mostly inner-circle crowd from the old Ole currently drop by when they’re in the neighborhood. I say grab a seat now while you still can — Esteban has plans (and heavenly connections) so it won’t be long before it fills up . . .

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.