Boycott of Russian vodka has bandwagon effect

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Bar owners in New York City emptied bottles of Russian vodka into the streets of Manhattan on August 5 in a protest against Russia’s oppression of the LGBT community.

It’s reported that more than two hundred New York bars and restaurants have now started a boycott of vodka from Russia. Gay bars across North America began the move in July after the passage of laws in Russia that prohibit the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”

Holding aloft a bottle of Stolichnaya, the United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association President Paul Hurley demanded a city-wide boycott of Russian spirits and liquor, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“All these vodkas here, we’re going to throw them out,” Hurley said. “We feel enough is enough.”

Hurley asked New Yorkers to buy US-made alcohol instead and claimed that removing Russian products would be an initial step to compel the country to revisit its anti-gay policy.

Under the recent legislation, fines can now be imposed on those who provide information about the LGBT community to minors. Public displays of affection or activities regarded as counter to the law may also lead to penalties and arrests. Foreign nationals will fall within the jurisdiction and could face detention for up to 15 days or deportation.

In retaliation, owner of Manhattan bar Nevada Smiths, Paddy MacCarty, said he’s planning to dump every bottle of Russian vodka behind his bar.

Brands such as Stolichnaya have contended that they are not a Russian company and that they’re a supporter of LGBT rights. CEO Val Mandeleev wrote an open letter to the Advocate outlining the company’s opposition to Russia’s treatment of gay people.

“I want to stress that Stoli firmly opposes such attitude and actions. Indeed, as a company that encourages transparency and fairness, we are upset and angry. Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community.”

The brand’s parent company, SPI Group, recently added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy: “SPI Group does not and will not discriminate in employment or personnel practices on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, handicap, religion, [or]national origin.”

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