Gay Bars in Chelsea and West Village Boycott Russian Booze

By Jess Wisloski and Gustavo Solis  on July 28, 2013 6:55pm

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  Gay bars around New York City are boycotts Russian liquors to protest the country's anti-gay laws. 
Gay Bars Boycott Russian Booze
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WEST VILLAGE — A group of gay bars are standing up for their LGBT Russian comrades by dumping Russian vodka.

The boycott is a response to Russia’s anti-gay laws, which forbid gay parents from adopting children and allow police officers to arrest people spreading "gay propaganda."

New York City gay bars joined bars in Chicago and Los Angeles in refusing to sell Russian spirits, including the popular vodka, Stolichnaya.

“This is a small retaliation that we hope is going to pick up,” Mike Garcia, 21, manager at the Boxer Sports Bar in West Village. “Russian vodka isn’t the only type of vodka.”

Boxer is the largest LGBT seller of Stoli in the city, Garcia said. There were large empty spaces on the top shelves where it used to be prominently displayed. On Sunday most of the Russian booze was in storage, he said.

Other bars participating in the boycott include Ty’s, Boots & Saddle, Elmo’s, Posh, Barracuda, Ninth Avenue Saloon, Gym sports bar, and G lounge, and the Eagle NYC.

One gay bar that wasn't participating in the boycott was the XES Lounge on 24th Street and 7th Avenue.

“Boycotting Stoli doesn't make sense," the management wrote on the bar's Facebook page. "The Putin government does not control or manage the company, nor is the company headquartered in Russia."

Instead, the bar will donate $1 to Amnesty International for every drink they make with Stoli.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has come under fire for recently implementing strong anti-gay laws, including one that bars gay parents from adopting Russian children (the law also bans adoption of Russian children to any country that allows same-sex marriage) as well as legislation against "gay propaganda."

The anti-propaganda law reportedly allows for jailing gay or pro-gay tourists and fining people for providing information about the LGBT community.

The U.S. Department of State suggests that LGBT tourists in Russia avoid showing excessive physical displays of affection. 

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread in Russia,” warns the department's website. ”Harassment, threats, and acts of violence targeting LGBT individuals have occurred.”

Stolichnaya CEO Val Mendeleev published an open letter, stating opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws, and pointed out that that although the company uses Russian ingredients, it is headquartered in Luxemburg and processed in Latvia. He also underscored that the Russian vodka producer has supported gay pride events all over the world.

Meanwhile Skyy Vodka, an Italian company, took to Twitter Saturday to tout acceptance of gay customers: "American made, and made for everyone. ."

Sunday afternoon, Boots & Saddle turned their annual Christmas in July drag show into a Stoli dumping party to celebrate the boycott.

Coco De'Ball, 21, poured bottles of Stoli into a bucket on the stage. She agreed that Stoli has been a supporter of gay pride events in the United States but pointed out that they have not promoted the same agenda in Russia.

“They have some kick-ass flavors and that’s what sucks about it,” said De’Ball, whose favorite drink is blueberry Stoli. “But we’re all hanging together and making a statement.”

The bar’s co-owner, Robert Zigler, 48, who estimated the bar spends $10,000 a year on Stoli, plans to take the boycott one step further by refusing to show the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Russia, in the bar.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said. “If the businesses are hurting maybe they’ll pressure their government.”

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