How Operators Can Support Ukraine
by David Klemt
It’s normal to feel like there’s not much we can do as we watch in horror as Russia invades Ukraine, but there are ways to show support.
NATO alliance countries are struggling in their responses to Russia. A country with thousands of nuclear arms invaded a sovereign nation without such weapons. The response from NATO nations must be measured and de-escalate, not provoke. Consider that Russia seemingly threatened Sweden and Finland, and put its nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert.”
So, it’s understandable that the rest of us aren’t sure how much of a difference we can make.
However, restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality businesses do have the power to help.
John and Katherine Vellinga founded Zirkova Vodka around 2016. Initially, the brand was named Slava Vodka.
The Vellingas are Canadians. However, they consider Ukraine their home country. In fact, the two worked in Ukraine for about five years.
During their time in Ukraine, the two worked with brewers and winemakers. Over the course of those five years, John and Katherine decided to create an ultra-premium Ukrainian vodka.
It’s important to note, however, that Zirkova’s mission isn’t simply to create world-class vodka. You can read their full mission statement here.
In part, the brand’s mission statement reads: “Built in the DNA of the brand is a deep-rooted belief in the goodness of humanity, an abiding commitment to freedom and human rights for all.”
Zirkova’s foundation One+Together has raised money for human rights and humanitarian throughout Canada, Ukraine, and New York City.
Now, the brand is donating 100 percent of profits generated from sales of Zirkova at the LCBO to Ukrainian humanitarian funds.
View this post on Instagram
It should also be noted that the province of British Columbia has banned the sale and import of Russian liquor products.
On the topic of donations, operators can support a number of charities that focus on helping the people of Ukraine.
The non-profit organization also has a relief team on the way to Romania as well. Donations to WCK can be made via this link.
If you have a question about the legitimacy of a charity, look it up on a site like Charity Navigator. Unfortunately, bad actors (scumbags) latch onto crises to scam people out of their money.
Rejecting Russian Vodka
Some restaurants and bars are making more assertive statements via the products they’re now willing to sell…or no longer sell.
There are restaurants and bars emptying their inventories of Russian vodkas by dumping them out.
View this post on Instagram
The above post is just one example of operators, restaurant workers, and bar teams taking a stand.
In addition, there are operators seeking to add Ukrainian products to their menus. Will these businesses ever carry Russian products again? It’s far too early to tell, of course.
Individual operators will have to decide if refusing to sell Russian products is the right decision for them. If they choose that path, they’ll need to decide if doing so quietly or publicly is the best approach.
In simplistic terms, too many politicians and leaders are beholden to corporate money and influence. Realistically, as regards Putin, the opposite seems true.
Still, impacting the bottom lines of Russian companies, millionaires and billionaires may have some impact on Putin, though that’s unlikely to lead to peace any time soon.
Interestingly, reports indicate that at least two Russian billionaires have called for peace in Ukraine.
It’s alarmingly easy for strong emotions to drive just about anyone to make harmful decisions. Fear, sorrow, frustration, and anger are powerful.
We must all remember something incredibly important: The Russian people are not to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
One person—along with his inner circle of sycophants and enablers—is to blame: Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Feeling powerless to help the Ukrainian people can lead to feelings of anger. It’s crucial that we not allow violence or harassment of Russian people in our communities.
We can support Ukraine without harming Russian people. Restaurants and bars are pillars of their communities, and keeping people safe is non-negotiable.
Some of us may react to feelings of anger, fear, and frustration by lashing out. We can’t let that lead to violence in our streets.
Do not tolerate harassment or violence in or around your business, and make it clear your business is safe for all guests. The last thing we need now is more divisiveness, harm or fear.