Miami’s Baires Grill to help Ukrainian refugees find housing and jobs

In the two weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two million Ukrainian citizens fled their homeland to seek refuge in other countries. Some have crossed the Polish border, where aid organizations like chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen are there to welcome them with a hot meal. Others have taken longer trips, including to South Florida, to stay with relatives.

Miamians have found ways to help the Ukrainian people through donations and prayers, but the people behind a group of local restaurants have decided to take a more direct route to help with the humanitarian crisis.

Nathaly Petrey, project manager for Miami-based Baires Grill, said executives at the small Argentinian restaurant chain wanted to do more than donate money to help the Ukrainian people. Partners Martin Koenig, Gustavo Abudiab and Natalia Denegri set out to provide 50 Ukrainian refugees with the same opportunities they were offered years ago when they immigrated from Argentina.

“The owners of Baires are immigrants. They came to the United States and this country gave them a chance to grow from scratch,” Petrey said. “They wanted to give more than a donation. They want to give an opportunity.”

Petrey says Baires asked for help from a local Ukrainian organization, to locate people who had already arrived in the United States and needed immediate help – and ultimately, help to start a new life. “Our lawyers are working on the paperwork to get them work permits,” she explains.

Additionally, Sofia Koenig, daughter of Baires partner Martin Koenig and a licensed social worker, will help newcomers navigate life in Miami.

Petrey says the restaurant group will also provide temporary housing.

“Once they have a salary, they will have the ability to support themselves. Then we can provide housing for more people who need it,” she says.

With five Baires locations in South Florida, including one in Weston – and more so in the works, there are a lot of jobs to be done, notes Petrey, adding: “We have people who started at the entry level who are now managers. We want to help these people for life. .”

Earlier in the day, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez held a press conference to congratulate Baires on his actions, saying, “Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters desperately need our help.”

Petrey says the restaurant campaign is ongoing and urges anyone who knows someone from Ukraine who would like to ask for help to visit the Baires website and complete the contact form.

“It’s not about power or money,” she says. “It’s a matter of life and family. What is happening in Ukraine is shocking. Now, more than ever, is not the time for war.”

Bar Grill. Many locations in South Florida.

Colleen D. Ervin