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West Hollywood Bars Join Boycott Of Stoli Vodka; Gutter-Pouring Ceremony Planned

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
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Gay bars in West Hollywood are joining the growing boycott of Stolichnaya vodka as part of a protest of the treatment of gays in Russia.

"Come on down and drink something other than Russian vodka!" Brian Rand, an accountant at Eleven Bar & Nightclub announced, telling the L.A. Times the bar stopped selling Stoli on Wednesday night. So did Revolver, which posted the following announcement on its Facebook page: "Revolver Video Bar could not support any brand associated with Russia at a time when the Russian government is implementing its anti-gay law that bans gay 'propaganda.'"

"We can't stand by as a community and watch the street thuggery on TV and the government's thuggery in the papers without doing something," West Hollywood city council member and former mayor John Duran told WeHoNews.

He said that when he heard about a group of LGBT-rights demonstrators being attacked in St. Petersburg and the anti-gay laws being passed in Russia, "it broke my heart."

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Duran added, "I think West Hollywood should be doing something about it, so [fellow city council member] John D' Amico and I asked the gay bars to join us for a ceremony next Thursday at Micky's. We'll pour out bottles of Stoli into the gutter to raise awareness of the boycott."

Of course, that ceremony will be symbolic, since environmental law prohibits pouring alcohol down gutters, so water will be used instead.

The boycott Stoli movement started in Florida and at the Sidetrack bar in Chicago about a week ago; activists have also been calling on the U.S. to boycott the 2014 Winter Games, which will be in the Russian city of Sochi.

Val Mendeleev, Chief Executive Officer of the SPI Group, distillers and distributors of Stolichnaya Vodka, has written an open letter to the gay community in response to the boycott.

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In it he stresses "Stoli firmly opposes" Russia's anti-gay policies and insists "Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community." He cited Stoli's production of a 2006 short film called "Be Real: Stories from Queer America" and the gay-centric commercials featuring "The Most Original Stoli Guy."

Duran disagrees, saying, "I've looked for evidence of their fervent support but all I can find is sponsoring Gay Pride festivals so they can sell gays they product. That's not supporting the community; that's marketing your brand to the community."

He plans to ask more clubs on the Sunset Strip to join the boycott.

Bob Yacoubian, the owner of Mother Lode, told the Times his bar did not order Stoli this week from its distributors because of the Russian anti-gay laws. "It's killing me to serve Stoli," he told one bartender in an email he forwarded to the newspaper. Yacoubian is considering hanging a sign in the bar that the bartender made reading: "Please enjoy one of our many other premium vodkas produced in other parts of the world. Russia's intolerance of homosexuality should not be supported by our hard-earned money!"

WeHo, by the way, is not only home to a thriving gay community, but to a large Russian community, which makes up about 11 percent of the city's population and is the largest concentration of Russians in the U.S. after New York's.

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Chicago Gay Bar Removes Stoli From Bar In Response To Russian Anti-Gay Laws