Some of Canada’s Ukrainian restaurants are seeing a rush of customers amid the ongoing Russian invasion as they look to bounce back from COVID-19 restrictions.
Tetyana Barylko’s family-run restaurant and bar Barrel House Korchma in Toronto has been navigating a flood of people wanting to dine in and order takeout over the past several days.
Barylko and her family are stunned by the support the restaurant has received since the crisis in Ukraine began.
“We’ve been getting a very overwhelming amount of support,” she said in an interview Monday.
While this has been a positive development for the business, which opened last June, it has been difficult to keep up with the demand because of staffing challenges resulting from the indoor dining ban implemented by the Ontario government in January, Barylko said.
Barrel House Korchma is working to bring back staff let go when sales dropped 70 per cent due to the COVID restrictions.
In addition, the ongoing supply chain crunch stemming from the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine are making it difficult to buy Ukrainian imports, including non-alcoholic kvass, other beverages and even pickled vegetables.
“We were planning on getting beers imported from Ukraine, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible any time soon,” Barylko said.
She expects Ukraine to be more focused on helping its civilians and restoring the country, rather than on exports.
Uncle Ed’s Ukrainian Restaurant in Edmonton has also faced hurdles because of the pandemic, but is seeing a pickup in support amid the crisis overseas. The business plans to donate a percentage of its sales to an organization helping Ukrainians this week.
For Denis Ganshonkov, who owns Russian restaurant The Ossington Stop in Toronto, he is watching how things play out at LCBO stores. On Friday, the provincial liquor store started pulling Russian products from its shelves in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even though he focuses largely on local businesses, Ganshonkov does buy some products from the LCBO, including vodka brand Russian Standard and Beluga Russian Luxury Vodka.
He is also thinking about how people might react to Russian items when ordering.
“I don’t know if there might be backlash if people see Russian Standard vodka on the menu,” he said.
Ganshonkov has received questions from customers about what his stance on the war is and he said he wants to emphasize that his restaurant does not support President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine.
“I hope people know that a Russian restaurant in North America is not sponsoring any of this and is not part of what’s going on,” he said Monday.
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