Some bars and liquor stores think they’ve found a potent way to punish Russia for invading Ukraine: They’re pulling Russian vodka off their shelves and promoting Ukrainian brands instead.
“I woke up yesterday morning, and I saw that Russia had invaded Ukraine. You wonder what you can do,” said Bob Quay, owner of Bob’s Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “The U.S. obviously is putting on sanctions. I thought I would put on sanctions as well.”
So he rid his shelves of the old Soviet brand Stolichnaya and started promoting Ukraine’s Vektor. “We have a sign above it that says: Support Ukraine.”
Quay announced the move on Facebook, and “it blew up. We’ve got people coming in who’ve never been in the bar before.”
Stoli, owned by the Russian-born tycoon Yuri Shefler, is actually made in Latvia. On its website, Stoli Group says it “stands for peace in Europe and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
The Southern Spirits liquor store in Indian Land, South Carolina, is doing a booming business in the Ukrainian vodka Kozak after pulling Russian brands off its shelves.
“It’s selling out a lot faster than we thought,” said general manager Drew Podrebarac. “It’s been awesome.”
The Magic Mountain ski resort in Londonderry, Vermont, posted a video on Twitter showing an employee pouring Stolichnaya down the drain and saying: “Sorry, we don’t serve Russian products here.”
Governors entered the fray, too. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine directed the state’s Commerce Department to cease the purchase and sale of Russian Standard, the only Russian vodka sold in Ohio (under the brand names Green Mark and Russian Standard). New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order requiring state liquor outlets to remove Russian-made and branded alcohol, as did Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.
In Canada, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario on Friday announced that “all products produced in Russia will be removed from LCBO channels,” including 679 of its stores across the province. It also promised to accept the return of any Russian products and declared that it “stands with Ukraine, its people, and the Ukrainian Canadian community here in Ontario.”
In Grand Rapids, Quay said he may never sell Russian products again. And he’s taken another step: “I’ve ordered a Ukrainian flag, and that will be going up next week.”