‘The establishments that are here called as those who rolled over are put as an example in Kazakhstan’

Anti-vaxxers threaten Kazan restaurateurs with boycotting COVID-19 restrictions

‘The establishments that are here called as those who rolled over are put as an example in Kazakhstan’
Photo: Maxim Platonov

With the introduction of QR codes to enter public catering establishments, owners of Kazan restaurants and cafes started to be showered with threats from anti-vaxxers saying they would boycott those who met COVID-19 requirements under a threat of fines of 200,000 rubles. So now representatives of the sector who already carried losses due to the restrictions that were unexpected for many are complaining about bullying. Realnoe Vremya found out the causes of threats to businesses, the scale of the problem that has been created with the introduction of QR codes and its origins.

They will be held accountable for “fascists”

Kazan entrepreneur, co-owner of Peski cafe on Profsoyuznaya Street in Kazan Yulia Ryvkina ranted at the anti-vaxxers urging others to boycott the establishments whose owners were meeting COVID-19 restrictions and requiring a QR code at the entrance.

“A lot of restaurateurs have been hit. We are accused of advocating segregation, and even fascism,” she wrote in reply to a post accusing Chito cafe of “national segregation.” “I especially like this one because we are trying not to lose our business in the current situation so much both money and soul have been invested in. Yesterday, my friend Yulia Kantaria (Chito cafe) herself delivered orders because it is expensive to hire a courier, while there are few orders. Moreover, she hasn’t yet had her leg plaster cast removed. She went with a crutch... I am not writing this asking you to sympathise with us, not to justify ourselves. I want to warn you, our dear armchair revolutionaries, we aren’t going to tolerate your insults and obediently wear the labels you attach. We aren’t having the best times now, but we will pool money for the sharpest-tongued lawyer and will punish everybody who is hissing by law. By law. Do you know what it is?”

A Russian movement calling on people to boycott the cafes and restaurants meeting anti-coronavirus measures have reached the Tatarstan capital together with QR codes. Anti-vaxxers not only urge others to ignore these establishments but also accuse their owners of “segregation” and claim they “advocate fascism.”

In June, anti-vaxxers announced a boycott on Moscow restaurants, three weeks later, the introduction of QR codes to access cafes and restaurants was cancelled, and boycott plotters on social media consider this their merit, though a high percentage of vaccinated people among diners and public catering workers and a fall in the incidence were officially claimed as foundation for the cancellation. But now, the Moscow authorities have again started to talk about the possibility of the introduction of QR codes. QR codes are also planned to be launched in Saint Petersburg, however, not only for people going to cafes and restaurants.

“They fished for it”

“I don’t want a buzz around this theme,” Yulia Ryvkina told Realnoe Vremya. “It is painful for me, I am concerned. I am also written bad things privately, but I am just blocking them. While this was sent to my friend. And the blogger who sent this has a lot of followers. But as I understood, there is no sense in arguing with such people. Such talks should simply be blocked.”

The behaviour of the anti-vaxxers urging people for a boycott is irresponsible, Ryvkina noted. Photo: Maxim Platonov

Firstly, Ryvkina says, among those who are threatening with passing her cafe by, there aren’t people who have been or goes there and her potential guests. So they cannot influence the situation with the business, though the state of affairs is really not simple: with the introduction of QR codes, the cafe lost more than 50% of its revenue.

Secondly, she noted, the behaviour of the anti-vaxxers urging people for a boycott is irresponsible, moreover, not only towards others’ businesses but towards themselves and their families whose life and health they risk. Thirdly, the anti-vaxxers, in fact, themselves fished for the introduction of restrictions. What else could be expected when the curve of the incidence and the numbers of deaths are going up, while people insist and do nothing to have herd immunity?

“I think that boycotting cafes and restaurants is just cowardice of the opponents of vaccination. Because it is not we who introduced the restrictions, we are just complying with the law. We are made responsible for the decision we didn’t make. If you don’t agree, write a letter to the government, go to protest, in a word, do something! But we are afraid of being against those who make decisions. We are against those who follow these decisions because they either follow the decision or lose their business, receive fines after which a business cannot survive.”

Also, the entrepreneur says that the negativity coming from people who call on others to a boycott completely overshadows positive emotions of guests of her cafe who come to have a cup of coffee at the door and drink it outdoors without a QR code saying: “I have already received the first dose of the vaccine, I will soon get the second one and will certainly come to you!”

“Here, they roll over, there, they defended themselves”

The author of Bad Waiter’s Notes on Yandex.Zen talks about the bacchanalia anti-vaxxers created in his establishment’s direct messages with caustic humour: “What happened next is hard to explain. I started to receive comments: ‘Fascists! Happy bankruptcy, etc. While the following things began to appear in comments to posts about the verification of the QR codes at the entrance to the restaurant: ‘Turncoats,’ ‘Resist, businesspeople, not pander,’ You opt for segregation instead of hiring a good lawyer and not be bought into such ‘orders.’” The manager says she woke up on her day off at 8.30 in the morning, while their business account was replete with direct messages. And still in bed, she read all this sh*t our dear guests sent us till 9 o’clock. She says she felt this crowd shared one brain. So now, coming to work, we welcome each other: ‘Hi, fascists.’”

The author of the post says (and provides a screenshot) that some public catering establishments are already publishing “proud posts and stories that they, thank God, aren’t verifying any QR codes because their establishments serve to God, not Satan, therefore any person absolutely freely can come there for lunch” on their accounts.

“The word segregation,” the author notes, “is now seen more than that the Cesar salad on the menu 10 years ago. Freedom of speech, freedom of speech. Do you see what freedom of speech leads to when it is far from the sound sense? I showed these comments to my friend who once invited me to work in public catering; she started browsing the hashtag #ктакимнеходим, (Editor’s note: which in English literally means ‘we don’t go to them’). And she learnt that the same was happening, for instance, in Kazakhstan. However, our establishments, which are here called as those who rolled over, there, are put as an example as ‘who defended themselves.’”

2-3 weeks weren’t enough

“Those who often go to public catering won’t boycott restaurants because of the introduction of QR codes,” Maria Gorshunova, owner of Maydan, founder of Full Dad chain of restaurants, is convinced. “While those bloggers and their circle who are angry and are urging people to boycott are flies whose hiss shouldn’t be paid attention.”

Gorshunova believes the problem is different:

“Of course, we felt the effect of the introduction of QR codes — the revenue fell by 80%. We are not even breaking even. We are at a huge loss. But the problem isn’t that everybody around thinks vaccines against COVID-19 are an unnecessary thing. The case is that those who were vaccinated first don’t have QR codes, they have certificates. Some people don’t have accounts on the website of the State Services, now they are in a queue to Multi-Functional Centres. Also, we have a lot of people from other cities on Bauman Street, they don’t have QR codes either. They are in a trance in general — they can check in at a hotel but cannot use the infrastructure outside the hotel. Perhaps, they also received a vaccine but don’t have QR codes. While we have only one variant of access. Certificates don’t work. Also, there are the elderly who don’t have smartphones, who don’t know what the website of the State Services is. What about the funeral meal? People ask to offer a funeral meal, but we cannot because they don’t have QR codes. Okay, the elections are over. What if the elections were now, after the introduction of QR codes? It seems to me they could have been thwarted...”

Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent wondered: “What’s the solution?”

“We should have been prepared for this, I think, at least 2-3 weeks in advance for those who have already received a vaccine but haven’t signed up on the website of the State Services and haven’t received a QR code.”

The entrepreneur considers today’s situation comparable with the lockdown:

“But the lockdown was fairer: we closed, that’s it. Then, we could save money on utility bills, something else, while now we cannot. The Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers addressed the government of the republic, and we were replied that the QR codes would likely be valid until December. So now we are thinking about how to survive. Packages of holiday orders are usually formed in October. There is silence now. This is already raising concerns that New Year will be foiled.”

“Restaurateurs will need support measures”

According to Executive Director of the Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Tatarstan Galina Sharafutdinova, the fall in the revenue in cafes and restaurants due to the introduction of QR codes is on average 60% compared to the period before the QR codes. But specific indicators vary from place to place:

“Somebody has 50%, somebody does 90%, moreover, there is no dependence on the format, location of establishments, the numbers are accidental.”

The association sent a letter about the consequences of the introduction of QR codes to the president of the republic.

“The letter was handed over only yesterday, we expressed the concern of the sector in it,” said Executive Director Galina Sharafutdinova. “For us, it is important to understand how the situation will be unfolding. Now, we have voiced the problem.”

In answer to the question of how the problem could be solved, she replied that in the case the access to public places with QR codes stays for a long period, restaurateurs will need support measures from the state:

“We don’t have problems with obtaining consultations, but they don’t influence the economic components. The impact of QR codes for a month is already very critical for us, this threatens to close enterprises. In this case, we would like to at least save the staff, hope for compensation from the payroll fund how it was after the lockdown, compensation for utility bills, tax holidays during the third quarter of the year and compensation for the fee of delivery services, which, I think, will be rising.”

Inna Serova