Bars boycott Russian vodka over anti-gay laws

Posted at 5:26 PM, Jul 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-31 17:26:27-04

By Emily Jane Fox

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Bars around the world have stopped serving Russian vodka to protest its recently-enacted anti-gay laws.

The movement comes in the wake of several laws implemented by Russian president Vladimir Putin in recent months that ban same sex couples from adopting Russian-born children, allow police to arrest foreigners they suspect as being "pro gay," and outlaw "homosexual propaganda" as pornography.

In response, internationally syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage started a "Dump Russian Vodka" campaign, asking bartenders and booze enthusiasts to put the Russian stuff back on the shelf.

"Show the world that Russian persecution of gays is unacceptable," a campaign flier states. "Boycott Russian vodka until persecution of gays and their allies ends."

Bars from the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia have responded.

G Lounge, a gay bar in New York City, posted on its Facebook page that it wouldn't serve popular vodka brand Stolichnaya and other Russian alcohol in solidarity with rights of the the lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender community.

"Stoli, and other Russian vodka brands, take pride in their heritage and past, a past now tarnished by a leader favoring the condemnation and jailing of anyone portraying the LGBT community in a positive light," the post said. "We will always and forever stand by the LGBT community in any way we can."

Seattle nightclub R Place also joined the campaign.

"Boycotts helped end Apartheid, spurred the Civil Rights Movement, and curbed potential atrocities," the nighclub posted. "Losing a little revenue pales in comparison to the suffering tied to discrimination, imprisonment, and even death."

In the U.K., the Pride Cafe in Newcastle tweeted that there would be no Russian vodka served there.

The Laird Hotel from Melbourne, Australia, urged people to speak up on its Facebook page: "Sign a petition, contact the embassy or your local MP."

Stolichnaya's CEO Val Mendeleev sent an open letter last week condemning the recent laws and reaffirming the brand's commitment to the LGBT community.

"We fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia," Mendeleev wrote. "In the past decade, [we have] been actively advocating in favor of freedom, tolerance and openness in society, standing very passionately on the side of the LGBT community and will continue to support any effective initiative in that direction."

Stoli's website even got a makeover in the midst of the campaign. A rainbow block of text boasting that the brand "stands strong and proud with the global LGBT community against the attitude and actions of the Russian government" now wraps around a Stoli bottle on its homepage.