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UPDATED: ACT UP Disrupts Stoli Event At Splash In New York - VIDEO

  Most Original Stoli Guy
Less than a dozen members of ACT UP / NY stood up in front a crowd of roughly 150 at a "Most Original Stoli Guy: New York" event taking place at Splash Bar in Chelsea yesterday, and began shouting and displaying signs with slogans such as "Russia Kills Gays" and "Dump Stoli". Most of those in attendance viewed the demonstration in "bewildered silence", according to Gay City News. The show's drag queen host was the only one who vocally supported the Russian vodka brand, quipping, "This is what happens when you drink Absolut".

As security began tearing some of the group's signs and escorting them out of the building, the host went on to add, "Look at those assh*les being taken out of the bar. This is America, not Russia!" 

While ACT UP's demonstration turned out to be brief, one of the group's organizers, Mark Milano, was still pleased. "I think it was great," he said. "They were totally taken off guard. There were Stoli executives in the room who saw their event crashed." Another ACT UP member, Brandon Cuicchi, told Gay City News that “Stoli was doing an event they could not do in Russia. You’re not LGBT-friendly marketing to gay people while saying nothing in your home country. 

Act UpACT UP, an HIV awareness and activism group, first started making headlines during the late 1980's, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Now, the group is expressing its concern that Russia's new anti-gay "propaganda" law might cause harm to groups seeking to combat HIV in the country:

"The ACT UP demonstrators voiced specific concern that under the new Russian legislation, dissemination of safe sex education, condoms, and AIDS treatment drugs will be targeted as 'homosexual propaganda,' something that could cripple effective prevention efforts. The group is calling on UN AIDS to condemn the new Russian law."

Stoli's parent company, SPI Group, has already decried the Russian vodka ban and expressed its support for the international LGBT community. Many human rights activists, including the likes of Dan Savage, remained steadfast in their efforts to "dump Russian vodka". Last night's demonstraton no doubt serves as a reminder of that fact. 

UPDATE: Video footage of the protest has hit the web. Watch it AFTER THE JUMP...


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  1. Good for them. We have to speak out when injustice is happening.

    Posted by: toddx | Jul 31, 2013 7:38:33 AM

  2. If nothing else the boycott is bringing much needed attention to the Russian government's abuse of gay people and our supporters.

    Posted by: Gigi | Jul 31, 2013 7:39:10 AM

  3. Good to see this happening.

    Posted by: Jack M | Jul 31, 2013 7:47:30 AM

  4. I love how EVERYONE is going after Stoli, Does anyone realize that Stoli is made in Latvia, NOT Russia? How about going after these companies...Dovgan, Gold Symphony Vodka, Hrenovuha, Kauffman Vodka, Kubanskaya, Moscow Distillery Crystal, Moskovskaya, Moskovskaya vodka, Narodnaya, Putinka, Pyatizvyozdnaya, Rodnik, Ruskova, Russian Standard (vodka), Shustov vodka, Smirnoff & Youri Dolgoruki Vodka.

    Did you notice Smirnoff is on that list?? No one is seen dumping that Vodka, yet they ARE made in Russia!

    How about do your research people before you go after a company like Soli. They, like Absolute, are HUGE supporters of the LGBT community. My god the letter that president of Stoli sent out slamming the Russian Government would be considered "Gay Propaganda" and could be jailed for what he wrote and yet he still wrote it.

    We as a community are too quick to jump on the "band wagon" of boycotting something before doing the research!!!

    Posted by: Patrick Hagerty | Jul 31, 2013 8:14:38 AM

  5. "Fewer than..."? Let us not boycott English as well.

    Posted by: Matt | Jul 31, 2013 8:15:19 AM

  6. Glad to see this is going on! For a gay bar that is closing its doors for good after 22 years,Splash still managed to shoot themselves in the foot by having the Stoli event anyway. That sounds like a big "F*** YOU!" to the local gay community. I guess all they really care about is taking our money. Splash has been in the crapper for years anyway,they need to disappear from the gay nightlife landscape. Them hiring straight bartenders and door staff with s****y attitudes toward gay males just made that place feel unwelcoming to the very community in which they were designed to serve. Splash,you're not leaving yourself any room to be remembered in a positive way. Shame on you!

    Posted by: Audi-owner | Jul 31, 2013 8:17:29 AM

  7. @Matt It's "less than a dozen", but "fewer than 12". I appreciate and echo the sentiment, though, despite making the occasional typo thanks to being in such a perpetual rush.

    Posted by: RJ | Jul 31, 2013 8:18:09 AM

  8. @Patrick Smirnoff was founded in Russia but is not owned by a British company

    Posted by: RJ | Jul 31, 2013 8:18:39 AM

  9. @ Patrick Hagerty: It's still *RUSSIAN VODKA* that is distilled in *MOSCOW RUSSIA*. You need to do more research before wagging your finger at the rest of us. Moron!

    Posted by: Audi-owner | Jul 31, 2013 8:21:46 AM

  10. The political apathy of our gay brethren on display yet again...if it's not about marriage most queers won't get off their asses.

    ACTUP needs to be called out too. Protesting Stoli and access to PrEP, but dead silence about crystal meth and barebacking...Don't see ACTUP protesting bars that show bareback porn on their monitors or that host events for bareback porn companies.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Jul 31, 2013 8:39:39 AM

  11. Any gay bar which hosts a Stoli event is aiding and abetting the enemy. Any drag queen who hosts a Stoli event should have his teeth pulled out.

    Posted by: Adam | Jul 31, 2013 8:43:07 AM

  12. QJ201,

    Barebacking is not inherently risky. Promiscuity is risky. Bareback is perfectly safe between 2 healthy people.

    Posted by: Adam | Jul 31, 2013 8:45:50 AM

  13. Wonder why everyone is simply referring to Bebe Zahara Benet, simply as "the Drag Queen Host?" Doesn't she deserve to get the credit for her comments???

    Posted by: Biggun1971 | Jul 31, 2013 8:59:11 AM

  14. Andy -

    GayCities has a partnership with Stoli. And have been using their venues including Queerty and the SF Examiner to defend it. Using a GayCities article is hardly using a neutral source.

    Posted by: Will | Jul 31, 2013 9:01:07 AM

  15. Yes Patrick. They should be protesting the next MOST ORIGINAL DOVGAN GUY or MOST ORIGINAL KUBANSKAYA GUY event!

    These events show why Stolichnaya IS an ideal target.

    All the other Russian vodkas are on Savage's list, for those who can read.

    Posted by: KevinVt | Jul 31, 2013 9:35:10 AM

  16. Welcome back, ACT-UP! Now, let's all stir up some sh*t and make some noise. It's been far, far too long. It is time to get righteously angry again!

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 31, 2013 9:45:27 AM

  17. I'm going to express my preference for "Fewer than a dozen," too.

    "Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that fewer is used with expressions denoting things that can be counted (fewer than four players), while less is used with mass terms denoting things of measurable extent ( less paper; less than a gallon of paint). However, less is idiomatic in certain constructions where fewer would occur according to the traditional rule. Less than is used before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance: less than three weeks; less than $400; less than 50 miles. Less is sometimes used with plural nouns in the expressions no less than (as in No less than 30 of his colleagues signed the letter ) and or less (as in Give your reasons in 25 words or less)."

    The American Heritage Dictionary (CD-ROM, version 4.0, 1995

    Posted by: Ken | Jul 31, 2013 9:50:48 AM

  18. I too have wondered why Smirnoff wasn't also targeted. Maybe Stoli is more popular? I drink gin... at home... so I have no idea.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Jul 31, 2013 9:55:39 AM

  19. Patrick you are an IDIOT. YOU haven't done YOUR research. Stoli is made from MAJORITY RUSSIAN INGREDIENTS and is just bottled and packaged in Latvia. Yuri Scheffler is known for a FACT to be a big supporter of Putin's government with his millions from STOLI at his disposal.

    The boycott (for almost SOLELY PR purposes) IS on other Russian vodka, not just Stoli you dolt.

    Actually it wouldn't surprise me if you were a PR plant from their company tbh.

    Posted by: Leo | Jul 31, 2013 10:00:32 AM

  20. Splash deserves to close if they are hosting a Stoli night after all of the press on the boycott. Good riddance...

    Posted by: KJPNYC | Jul 31, 2013 10:04:46 AM

  21. It's not specific but symbolic pressure that gets action.

    Anything imported from Russia. Name brands first and the others to follow. It is about making an impact and announcing to the world that LBGT safety, respect, and equal protection is demanded and yes dollars will not continue without a change in this silly and and very loosely defined "law".

    Olympics or not.

    For all of you who think it's silly to boycott, continue with your posts about how this won't work or that the company is the wrong company, but already it is national news and has provoked statements from both sides, so it is already working and making an impact.

    It's starting conversations and awareness while demanding change and it is only just beginning. We need to keep up the pressure, both locally and internationally.

    Boycott all things Russian.

    The LBGT community is a strong and influential force that should not be taken lightly. Fight the fight with you dollars.

    Posted by: Will | Jul 31, 2013 10:11:13 AM

  22. I had a feeling Bebe is an ignorant shill. Maybe she should take a visit to Moscow and tell us about her experience. F*ck it! Go back to Cameroon and try to host a Stoli event there. For this mess to taunt the ACTUP activists is truly insulting. She isn't prepared to kiss their feet.

    Posted by: MikeSin | Jul 31, 2013 10:17:05 AM

  23. Thanks, @RJ -- and thanks for the article. Not to detract from the important politics with grammar (not they're always inseparable, of course) -- but I'm still with @Ken on this: fewer than a countable number. Unless we're considering ACT UP members as "things of measurable extent" -- say, a gallon of [usefully colorful] paint. Since we can count people, I'd stick with "fewer" or avoid the problem.

    Posted by: Matt | Jul 31, 2013 10:28:34 AM

  24. On the boycott itself: even if the boycott is not likely to be economically effective, it has brought publicity and theatricality to the issue, and has led IOC, USOC, NBC, and the company itself to come out on the side of non-discrimination (at least in statements) -- so there's been value in it, by changing the international discourse.

    Posted by: Matt | Jul 31, 2013 10:33:13 AM

  25. Smirnoff has at best very distant connections to Russia. It's now owned by a UK company and made all over the world. Some family member of the original Russian family started his own Smirnoff brand in Russia, and the owners of the "real" smirnoff sued them for many years. I believe they settled and have a joint venture now to supply the russian market. So you'd only boycott Smirnoff if you were going to boycott all western companies doing business with Russia, which is pretty much everyone.

    Stoli is the appropriate target for a boycott, although with this event at Splash it doesn't sound like it's getting much traction. I know splash is only one bar and it's closing, but it doesn't seem like anyone in the audience had any idea about this either.

    Posted by: Brian1 | Jul 31, 2013 10:45:48 AM

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