Following in the footsteps of bars in Chicago, Los Angeles and Florida, a group of New York City gay bars have implemented a boycott of Russian vodkas. The boycott comes as a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's strict "gay propaganda" law, which imposes fines and deportation on anyone found supporting LGBT culture in any way and prohibits gay parents from adopting Russian children.
“This is a small retaliation that we hope is going to pick up,” Mike Garcia, manager of Boxer Sports Bar, told DNAinfo. “Russian vodka isn’t the only type of vodka.” The bar has removed all Russian-based vodkas from its shelves, including popular Stolichnaya, which has become the focal brand of this boycott after Dan Savage name-checked it in his piece about the situation in Russia. So far, nine other prominent West Village and Chelsea gay bars have followed suit.
While the Russian government's actions are deplorable, some say the ban on Russian products is misguided. Chelsea's XES Lounge wrote a letter to customers on their Facebook page explaining why they wouldn't be participating in the boycott. The bar points to the Stoli's support of the LGBT community and notes that a boycott "doesn't make sense" as the company isn't headquartered in Russia. Instead of a ban, the bar will donate $1 to Amnesty International for every drink made with Stoli that they sell this summer.
Stolichnaya CEO Val Mendeleev also penned an open letter to the LGBT community hoping to "clear the confusion" about the brand and remind customers of the vodka's long-standing support of gay rights.