Dan Savage | News | Russia

Gay Bars Across Globe Dump Russian Vodka


Prompted by Dan Savage's recent op-ed urging people to boycott Russian vodka, gay bars in the United States and elsewhere around the world have started banning Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas. The goal of the boycott is to bring attention to the recent LGBT human rights violations in that country.

So far, bars in NYC, LA, Miami, Vancouver, Toronto, London, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, San Diego and Sydney have all participated in the ban. In the photo above, the manager of The Fountainhead Pub in Vancouver dumps out a bottle of Russian vodka.

An article in today's LA Times reports on the growing campaign:

West Hollywood bars join a growing number of U.S. gay bars boycotting Stoli. Numerous Chicago bars have boycotted the vodka and other Russian products, according to the Windy City Times, a Chicago newspaper that focuses on the gay and lesbian community.

“Consumer action, for a long time, has been a part of any activism,” Art Johnston, the co-owner of the gay bar Sidetrack Chicago, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Sidetrack--in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, an LGBT hub–stopped selling Stoli earlier this week, Johnston said. The spaces on the bar where Stoli vodka bottles would sit remain empty so people will ask what used to be there, he said.

“I’m hopeful people will talk about this,” Johnston said. “Either the lives of gay and lesbian people in Russia mean something, or they don’t. Clearly, to us, they mean something.”

In case you missed it yesterday, the parent company of Stolichnaya, the SPI Group, responded to the ban via an open letter.

Sidetrack was one of the first gay bars to ban the sale of Russian vodka. They stopped selling it this past Wednesday. Watch a WGN-TV news segment about that bar and the boycott, AFTER THE JUMP.

Has your local gay bar stopped selling Russian vodka?


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  1. Yet no one mention the caviar. I guess its pretty hard for the rich and famous to by pass their favourite snack.

    Posted by: bambinoitaliano | Jul 27, 2013 7:32:54 PM

  2. The Eagle here in ATL has stopped selling Stoli and I hear that the other bars are joining including some of the straight ones.

    Posted by: Nemo | Jul 27, 2013 7:33:51 PM

  3. http://fablog.ehrensteinland.com/2013/07/27/fait-diver-another-vodka-stinger/

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 27, 2013 7:39:47 PM

  4. why stop at Vodka? No more caviar either.

    Posted by: fanboi | Jul 27, 2013 8:13:37 PM

  5. In West Hollywood there is a large Russian community and a contingent of the Russian Mafia. It would be interesting if the City of West Hollywood could do something with them to effect change...not sure what, but it is an opportunity with a community that probably has ties with Mama Bear Russia.

    Posted by: woodroad34d | Jul 27, 2013 8:25:13 PM

  6. I'm all for punishing companies for bad or hateful decisions, and I've certainly had more than my share of vodka over the years. But I'm not sure that linking LGBT rights to vodka and bars is the most elegant or effective approach, especially since the vodka companies weren't responsible for Russia's draconian laws and can't do a ton to change them under Putin's oligarchy.

    So given that the goal is to raise attention---even if 1,000 bars stop serving Russian vodka for a few months, the financial hit to the vodka companies will be minute---why not call for a broader boycott of Russian goods or for a tangible response from policymakers, Russian and foreign? It's just unfortunate that the effort implies that vodka and bars are pillars of LGBT lives and rights. And yes, I fully realize that they play a large role in the lives of many gay men. But the links between the issues involved seem a bit muddled. Sparking discussion is obviously good, but the ultimate goals need to be clearer.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jul 27, 2013 8:27:07 PM

  7. What about boycotting snow and communism?

    Posted by: Kev C | Jul 27, 2013 8:31:57 PM

  8. BOYCOTT THE OLYMPICS! What is with this half ass protest. This is weak symbolism. Tell everyone not to watch it, urge your government too.

    Posted by: Tonez | Jul 27, 2013 8:42:13 PM

  9. @WOODROAD34D Don't you remember the Santender Singh murder case? A gay man killed by Russians in California. A lot of them have converted to some kind of evangelical protestant sect. Not likely allies, unfortunately. Plus many Russian immigrants are just as homophobic and racist as they are at home, alas.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Jul 27, 2013 8:54:01 PM

  10. It would be terrific if the large Russian community in WeHo allied themselves with the LGBT community. That would send a message of love of societal diversity. Either group could reach out to the other. They've been coexisting amicably anyway.

    Posted by: throwslikeagirl | Jul 27, 2013 8:55:12 PM

  11. There are a lot of anti-gay laws in different states here in the U.S. - why are we not boycotting those products too? Seems like a lame boycott just because a product is made in a particular country....especially when they support the gay community!

    Posted by: East Coast | Jul 27, 2013 9:15:09 PM

  12. Gays latch on to protest gimmicks -- but gay people like Dan Savage like to take credit for them even more. Face the fact that you are not universally admired. Your Vodka is piss in the ocean Savage. Russia is too big an assignment for you.

    Posted by: Gee | Jul 27, 2013 9:21:47 PM

  13. Buying it and pouring it out is still buying it....

    Posted by: MikeInSanJose | Jul 27, 2013 9:30:54 PM

  14. Ignore the haters and the negativity boys. Keep voting with your dollar.

    Posted by: Munro | Jul 27, 2013 9:32:01 PM

  15. @MIKE
    They're just pouring out their old stock.

    Posted by: Eric26 | Jul 27, 2013 9:33:39 PM

  16. You got marriage now STFU! "Glee" had an overdose. Time to wake up and face reality. Focus on AIDS. It's still here. The Olympics doesn't care about you. Just watch... This isn't The United States of Gay.

    Posted by: Jerome | Jul 27, 2013 9:55:20 PM

  17. This is one of the most misguided boycotts of all time.

    Posted by: DD | Jul 27, 2013 10:10:09 PM

  18. How about this. Hit the IOC where it counts. During the Olympics, if NBC shows any positive coverage about Russia, Putin, or Kiril...have thousands of Gay persons dump their Comcast (Comcast owns NBC) coverage for UVerse en masse (DishTV is anti-Gay btw). If the average Comcast customer pays 80 bucks a month for cable. If just 25,000 customers switch, that represents a loss to NBC/Comcast of over 100 million dollars over 5 years. That will teach them to not pay the IOC without demanding accountability.

    Posted by: Tom in Lazybrook | Jul 27, 2013 10:33:39 PM

  19. Gotta agree with TONEZ. Forget vodka - it's small stuff in the bigger picture. The real pressure needs to be on the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, which Russia is counting on to be a major centerpiece to boost their standing in the world.

    We can't stop Sochi and the IOC (rant about the IOC withheld for now), but using Sochi 2014 to focus global attention on Russia's travesties toward LGBT people could be huge. Think about it. What if the entire USA Team did something in solidarity, as simple as carrying a rainbow flag, that would get all of them arrested. Now we have a major international incident and Russia (and Putin) are in a tight spot under a global spotlight.

    More effective than switching brands of vodka? Yeah, I think so. Just a thought.

    Posted by: KC | Jul 27, 2013 10:55:58 PM

  20. I'm going to boycott everyone of Russian descent.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Jul 27, 2013 11:12:43 PM

  21. And Dallas! How about a little recog? The Brick Nightclub pulled it Friday. The bar's owner told me Stoli has been homophobic before, too:

    Posted by: Doug | Jul 28, 2013 12:39:21 AM

  22. Russian entrepreneur Yury Shefler owns 88% of the shares of SPI Group (manufacturer of Stoli) which according to their website "production begins with the authentic Stolichnaya base spirit, produced to the highest standards using 100% Russian wheat, rye and artesian well water." Oh, and 70% of their sales are in North America. Putin likes to think of himself as the Czar of Russia but the real leaders are it's oligarchs. Boycotting their products hits their power base where they live...in the wallet. This boycott, if it takes hold, has the potential of being a real help to LGBT citizens in Russia/Eastern Europe.

    Posted by: Queen Of The Night | Jul 28, 2013 1:30:00 AM

  23. This will be just as effective as that time people boycotted Chick-fil-A because of its President's homophobic behavior, right? All that boycotting totally got him to suddenly change his mind. Oh, wait ... But honestly, what is the purpose of this call to boycott? One does not affect the other. Guaranteed, this boycott will affect 0% change in the Russian government's stance on homosexuality.

    Posted by: David | Jul 28, 2013 2:40:37 AM

  24. These comments are negative, jaded, and ill-informed. This is a very meaningful gesture and could easily expand into broader social pressure from other organizations. I am reminded of the anti-apartheid demonstrations where universities were pressured to divest from companies doing business in South Africa. The pressure grew and grew and was eventually very effective.

    I salute Dan Savage for showing some leadership on this. (Do we have anyone else?) I am equally happy with the owners of Sidetrack, which serves enormous amounts of vodka, for getting out in front on this. The wire services have picked up the story of the Sidetrack and other boycotts, and it is now front page news in London and Paris.

    Let's remember that Halsted vodka donates 15 % of its profits to LGBT causes. Does any other distiller donate a single dime?

    Posted by: Rob | Jul 28, 2013 5:38:23 AM

  25. David: Nobody expected Dan Cathy to change his mind. But the fact that their PR do all their best to minimize the damage everytime he opens his mouth show that they really fear the boycott.
    Yes day had a very good day when all the homophobes decides to go there, but that doesn't last.

    Make some noise is never bad. Put pressure on Sochi sponsors will be even better. If big companies drop their support to the games that will hurt for sure

    Posted by: jjose712 | Jul 28, 2013 7:29:07 AM

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