One language for all: Is business in Kyiv ready to switch to Ukrainian?

Author : Andriy Korneyev

Source :

Ukrainian language should sound more often in Kyiv cafes, bars and restaurants. It can become reality in a few months
20:45, 15 May 2017

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This month, the Kyiv City Council may introduce new rules for the restaurateurs. According to new rules, they should start print the menu and talk to the guests in Ukrainian, and many institutions will have to change their names on signboards. All this will cost several hundred thousand hryvnia for each huge network. What is the reason for such radical changes? Kyiv deputies say they want to give impetus to the development of the state language and culture. The institutions are not ready to go into conflict with officials.

Ukrainian language should sound more often in Kyiv cafes, bars and restaurants. It can become reality in a few months. At the next meeting in May the Kyiv City Council will review the draft decision "On overcoming the consequences of the Soviet occupation in the language sphere", according to which all the capital's restaurants should print their menu in Ukrainian, and waiters - to welcome guests in the state language. These requirements are stated in the draft decision of the city council, which was passed the first reading in April. "The deputies supported my initiative with an absolute majority, as far as I know, among them is the mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko," says the draft decision creator Yuri Syrotiuk.

Yuri Syrotiuk is not cunning. This is an absolutely right initiative, and as a citizen I want to be addressed to me in Ukrainian and read menus in my native language, Kyiv City Council Secretary Volodymyr Prokopiv said. "But if we have already tackled this problem, we must solve it systematically, in accordance with all legal norms. It is also necessary to prescribe specific mechanisms for its implementation, "he said.

Language question sharpened

Why did the Kyiv City Council decide to intervene in the language issue? Syrotiuk argues that in the capital, Ukrainian-speaking visitors of public catering institutions are discriminated: waiters rarely communicate with their guests in their native language, and the menu is traditionally brought in Russian. "Can you imagine such a situation, for example, in Paris?" - He is indignant. And he adds that even the restaurants on Khreshchatyk Streets – the center street of the city - do not print the menu in Ukrainian.

The entry of new rules into force will make restaurateurs to be more respectful to the national language. "All services in the service sector in the capital - communication with customers, menus in public catering points, etc. - must first of all be carried out in Ukrainian language. Switching to a foreign language workers should only when the client himself asks for it. This decision will be recommendatory in nature and will restore historical justice in regard to our language, which has been suppressed for centuries, "said Yury Syrotiuk, a deputy of Kyiv City Council. As for those institutions that do not comply with the new requirements, the deputies will refuse to extend their work permits.

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Additional innovations concern signage. All of them should be translated from Latin into Cyrillic, and foreign words such as shop or mall should disappear from the names. Exceptions will only affect those names that are registered trademarks.

Lawyers doubt the legality

The Kyiv city council again exceeded its authority, stated the senior partner of the Kravets and Partners lawyer company Rostislav Kravets. "The city cannot force institutions to print menus and talk with guests in Ukrainian, which is certainly not its prerogative," the lawyer said. But the Kyiv authorities repeatedly acted in this way. For example, the decision of Kyiv deputies to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages, including beer in all SAFs (small architectural forms) is considered illegal by the Kyiv Regional Department of the AMCU (Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine). But it continues to work. After the expiry of the work permit, the SAF owner must refuse to sell alcohol. Otherwise, his object will be dismantled.

A similar situation is observed with the ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages from 23:00 to 10:00, which has been operating in Kyiv since last year. The requirement is voluntary, but in the capital it is observed by all major food chains, as well as almost all small stores. The decision of the AMCU and even the demand of the Economic Court of Kyiv, where retailers dispute the restrictions imposed, did not force Kyiv Council to cancel the ban. The city appealed the demands.

Will the restaurateurs meet the new requirements? The co-owner of PestoCafé network Dmytro Pogrebitsky says that his trademark is registered, therefore the network does not intend to write its name in Cyrillic. But those restaurateurs who did not take such a step will have to do this and pay a few hundred thousand hryvnia for new signs for a network of ten restaurants. The same fate awaits the majority of non-network restaurants, which will have to pay at least 10 thousand UAH for each restaurant when reprinting the menu and changing signage. But the owners of the institutions are not indignant. "The decision of the city council is advisory in nature, but if it comes into force, we will fulfill it and greet all guests in Ukrainian language," emphasizes Dmytro Pogrebitsky.

Marketing director of the World map network (Lipsky restaurant, Sam's Steak House, Marrakesh, Shinok, Mimino, Sushiya, etc.) Vitaliy Shadchnev admits that only half of the waiters are fluent in Ukrainian. "The rest will need to be trained, but this is also not a problem," he said. Judging by the activity of deputies, the first groups of waiters will start attending courses of the state language in the summer.

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