ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A fast-food burrito chain in Albuquerque has become an international tourist attraction as people come from all over the world to see the spot where a fictional drug trafficker runs his organization. A pastry shop sells doughnuts topped with blue candy designed to resemble crystal meth. A beauty store has a similar product — crystal blue bathing salts.
As “Breaking Bad” finishes filming its fifth and final season in Albuquerque, the popularity of the show is providing a boost to the economy and creating a dilemma for local tourism officials as they walk the fine line of profiting from a show that centers around drug trafficking, addiction and violence. “Breaking Bad” follows the fictional character Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth lord.
Albuquerque has seen an unexpected jump in tourists visiting popular sites from the show and local businesses cashing in on its popularity. The Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau has created a website of the show’s most popular places around town to help tourists navigate, and ABQ Trolley Company sold out all its “BaD” tours last year at $60 a ticket.
“They ask if they can take pictures. They ask if Gus is here,” said Rachel Johnson, 19, a shift manager at the Twisters burrito restaurant in Albuquerque’s South Valley, referring to the show’s character Gus Fring, played by actor Giancarlo Esposito. The eatery has served as the location for the “Los Pollos Hermanos” restaurant where Fring runs his drug operation on “Breaking Bad.”
Other popular shows over the past decade like “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” have generated tours and widespread interest in the filming locations, but “Breaking Bad” has seen a unique twist with drug-themed products that have been springing up around Albuquerque.
Tania Armenta, a vice president for the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city has seen positive benefits from the show’s popularity, from demands for tours to inquiries from other production companies seeking to film in Albuquerque. The Legislature also passed what has been labeled the “Breaking Bad” bill this year that provides tax breaks to TV shows that film in New Mexico.
“It’s raised the visibility of the city,” said Armenta. “They are intrigued by the scenic images that they see.”
Still, tourism officials and business owners are quick to point out that they are walking a fine line in trying not to promote the dark themes from “Breaking Bad.” But their pride in the show taking place in Albuquerque — and the money that it brings in — is often enough to offset their concerns.