Bottoms UP

Gay Bar Lifts Ban On Stoli Vodka, Boycott Ends

stoli175_wdrink_new__44351__01694.1358534178.1280.1280Patrons of Chicago’s Sidetracks bar can once again toast “Vashe Zdorovie!,” Russian for “Bottoms up!” with a Stoli Vodka cocktail. Following a $300, 000 donation to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and a $150,000 pledge to the Russia Freedom Fund, a gay rights group, by SPI Group–the company that sells Stolichnaya Premium Vodka–the owners of the popular club called a halt to a ban on the brand.
Stoli Vodka had been the subject of a boycott by several bars, under pressure from activists last year, after it was erroneously associated with the authoritarian, virulently antigay Russian regime. Stoli is Russian in name (and potato) only. The U.S.-based, Lavtian-produced Stoli Vodka has long been a proponent of LGBT equality, and a popular pour in dozens of gay bars. (Full disclosure: SPI is a sponsor of GayCities, Inc., and the companies partnered on the Most Original Stoli Guy program.)
“For many months, we have been working closely with our friends in the
LGBT community to identify ways of placing resources where we can help
make a difference in people’s lives,” John Esposito, President of Stoli Group USA, said in an email to Queerty. “Through our network we were lucky enough to be introduced to the Russia Freedom Fund which will directly help LGBT activists on the ground in Russia. Over the next two years, we hope our donation of $150K will help stimulate positive, lasting change for LGBT people living in Russia. We continue to stand with the worldwide LGBT community against their discrimination and their pursuit of justice and equality.”
“We are really delighted to work with Stoli on this very important solidarity fund for the Russian LGBT movement,” Julie Dorf of The Russia Freedom Fund told Queerty. “The crisis grows over there every day and American solidarity should naturally extend financially. I’d like to see more companies and more individuals putting their money where there mouths are as the Olympic Games open tonight and we see scores of activists detained by Russian police for speaking their minds about Putin’s anti-LGBT crackdown.”
Dorf characterized the boycott as effective despite the fact that the U.S.-based, Latvian-produced vodka company has no association with Russia and its draconian antigay policies. “The boycott got our community talking about and mobilized around the crisis in Russia that has continued to this day,” she insisted. “Stoli-USA has been an accessible dialogue partner throughout the boycott, and now have become a firm supporter of the Russian LGBT movement. I’d call this a very successful community response.”
At the same time, many bar owners and patrons, fans of the vodka, felt the boycott was misguided from the beginning.
Many opposed the protest last July when Queerty published a letter to the LGBT community from Val Mendeleev, CEO of SPI, that explained the company’s position and maintained that company officials “fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia.” The letter clarified widespread misconception about the company’s origins. As Mendeleev explained, “While we are proud of our Russian heritage, we are not a Russian State-owned brand nor do we support their laws and actions against the LGBT community there.”

Activist/sex columnist Dan Savage helped initiate the DumpStoliVodka campaign last summer. Now he has reversed course. “The important thing is to help Russian gays and lesbians who are being persecuted in Russia right now,” Savage said in a statement. “Sending 100% of funds raised to organizations working in Russia is the right thing to do, that’s why I’m supporting the Russia Freedom Fund.”

Tonight LGBT bars across the country will participate in a nationwide  fundraising event called Uprising of Love, vowing to donate $1 for each drink sold between 9 p.m. to midnight to the Russia Freedom Fund.

So go out and raise a toast to all your brothers and sisters in Russia tonight.

“Vashe Zdorovie!”

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  • Jackhoffsky

    OOO… yeah. Um, I’m not there yet. Sooo… whiskey for me. Thanks.

  • Cam

    Why would I buy Stoli which is produced with Russian Grain and made in anti-gay Latvia when I can buy Kettle One produced in Pro-Gay Marriage Holland or Grey Goose produced in Pro Gay Marriage France?

    I get that Queerty has been trying to push Stoli this whole time, but give it a rest.

  • PhxonIce

    The is total crap, the boycott ends when the discrimination ends and not a moment before. Nothing Russian in this house and nothing Russian will be consumed knowingly outside of it either.

  • Lazycrockett

    Stoli is shit to begin with.

  • blackout_boycott

    We here at BLACKOUT BOYCOTT has no intentions to stop a boycott against Russia and the Olympic Games. We are a Gay Community that does not need donations from corporate companies. We volunteer our time to checkup on the latest to inform the public of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trangender, and HIV AIDS victims.
    We total believe that the Boycott of Chicago Gay Bars that has been canceled is a huge mistake. Your letting your own people down. But sending funds to Russia is a huge mistake as well. That money will not get to them, and if it did, the government or vigilante groups will get it to further abuse, rape, murder the LGBT community of Russia.
    Even our own television networks are censored from publishing anything that is for coverage of the Anti Gay Laws in effect in Russia.

  • nastypigsub

    Hate to break it to you folks, but this had absolutely NOTHING to do with the treatment of gays in Russia for one single minute. The owners have managed to keep the real reason they started the whole shit pretty quiet in the gay media. The whole thing was to punish Stoli because the owners of Sidetracks wanted to host the Stoli Guy contest in the Chicago market. Instead Stoli gave the Chicago contest to a competing bar. They were pissed off and this all happened at the same time that the horrible images of the way gays are being treated started coming out of Russia. They used it as the perfect opportunity to stir up shit for Stoli and make themselves look good in the GLBT press.

    That being said what is happening to our GLBT brothers and sisters in Russia is horrible. But shame on Sidetracks for trying to use it as a revenge tactic and promote their business.

  • DShucking

    Has it been demonstrated that this boycott will hurt the Russian economy or is it just symbolic?

  • Mezaien

    NEVER! end ban On Stoli Vodka, or any Russian, products.

  • DarkZephyr

    The article clearly spells out that Stoli is not from Russia and that it’s always been a supporter of LGBT rights. How does boycotting it make sense? None of its profits go to Russia.

  • blackout_boycott

    We have not lifted the ban against Russia because of the misuse of there antigay laws of the LGBT. The LGBT org that took money in order to fund there programs to defend LGBT rights in Russia.
    we here at BLACKOUT BOYCOTT HEADQUARTERS did not start our BOYCOTT against Russia because of jealous losers of a contest in America. We started the Boycott against Russia for there misuse of the antigay laws.
    The government paid vigilante groups to set up, and convict on site. They torched a man, saying he was gay, by cutting his genitalia and leaving him to die with no medical help. All this was known on or before the Sochi Olympics, filmed by the vigilante groups, and female leader of the groups.
    It was and still is publicized on youtube, and nothing is censored.
    So, don’t tell us here at BLACKOUT BOYCOTT HEADQUARTERS in the USA, this is over.
    This Boycott will continue against Russia until they change there laws, and free our LGBT members. I used to drink Vodka, but no longer sense this nonsense of killing, maiming, beatings of the LBGT people.

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