Portland restaurant dumps Russian-made vodka to support Ukraine

This is a display of Russian Standard Vodka in a Total Wine and More store in University Park, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PORTLAND, Ore (KOIN) — Before state liquor regulators announced it was pulling Russian-made liquor from store shelves on Monday, a Portland restaurant and bar had already removed its Russian-made vodka to show solidarity with Ukraine.

The Fields Bar & Grill, located at 1139 N.W. 11th Ave., announced on social media last weekend that it dumped all Russian spirits and will no longer be sold at the establishment. In the post, a bartender is seen dumping two bottles of vodka.

Jim Rice, the owner of the business, said it’s important to understand the challenges happening during the Russia-Ukraine war.

“What’s transpiring right now is without a doubt historic, and the more people – the more businesses – big, large or small get involved to denounce what Russia’s doing will have a significant effect on the world stage,” said Rice.

The business is focused on finding sourcing for Ukrainian vodka to be able to replace the bottles that were thrown out.

“Interestingly, that’s not so easy. We’re still working our way through that,” explained Rice. “The one we’re looking at is Nemiroff, which is the primary Ukrainian vodka that’s used in Oregon, and we’re working through several distributors in Washington state to do the same.”

This announcement came before Oregon’s liquor authority directed the state’s independently owned liquor stores to pull all Russian-made distilled spirits because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

By pulling 5,000 bottles of Russia-made liquor from more than 280, the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission said it would sequester the remaining supply — more than 6,200 bottles — in its Portland warehouse.

The Oregon liquor authority said customers can still find all other brands of vodka, including those with Russian names, but not bought from distilleries in Russia itself.

When asked if he had a message for other bars or restaurants to follow suit, Rice said, “We would all agree that a single bar or even a small group of bars eliminating Russian vodka is not going to change what’s transpiring in Ukraine right now.”

He added, “The piece of this is it’s all symbolic. That we are trying to align ourselves and say that we believe that Ukraine should be free and that they have the right to be a sovereign nation and what Russia is doing is completely wrong.”

Within 24 hours of posting the picture of the business dumping its vodka on social media, Rice said that the restaurant’s QR codes were shut down and turned into a malware phishing expedition, which prevented people from using their digital menus.

He’s unsure if the disruption was a Russian cyberattack but says the restaurant will be using hard copies until the restaurant’s QR codes are back up and running again.

“We’re pretty small to be of any significance, but it’s interesting that it happened,” noted Rice, who did not report the disruption to a government agency.

The Fields Bar & Grill plans to offer cocktails made with Ukrainian vodka with 25% of the proceeds going to humanitarian aid in Ukraine.