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West Hollywood bars boycott Russian vodka to show gay solidarity

August 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
West Hollywood bartenders are boycotting Russian vodka to take a stand against the country's treatment of gays.

At a Thursday demonstration, local bartenders poured out bottles of Russian vodka onto the streets to show their solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community abroad.

"It's disheartening to see some of the images coming out of Russia with people doing as little as simply holding a pride flag being beaten, arrested and, in some cases, murdered," said Alfredo Diaz with Revolver Video Bar.

Their anger and frustration stems from Russian President Vladimir Putin signing an anti-gay propaganda law recently. It bans same-sex couples from adopting Russian born children. The law includes stiff fines and jail time for people police suspect as pro-gay, which could include hand-holding and other public displays of affection.

"If laws are supposed to protect his people, I think that law is going against it. It's actually hurting his own people," said AJ Moheeka of New York.

By pouring thousands of dollars of Russian vodka, like Stoli, down curbside drains, West Hollywood bar owners, LGBT organizations and city officials have joined the Dump Stoli movement, a boycott of all Russian vodkas and other spirits. Several bars have taken the alcohol off shelves.

Instead, bars along Santa Monica Boulevard are now stocking up on European and American alternatives.

The movement has spread to pubs and restaurants all over the world and even in households.

"We don't want to harbor a long-term grudge against Stoli. We'd like to see Stoli shift the portion of its manufacturing that still takes place in Russia out of Russia," said Diaz.

LGBT community officials say if the anti-gay law does not change in the near future, they will also boycott next year's winter Olympics, which takes place in Russia.

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