Sidetrack drops Russian vodka in response to country's anti-gay policies

Wed. July 24, 2013 9:15 PM by News Staff

Update: Elixir Lounge, Halsted's Bar and Grill, Hydrate Nightclub and Replay join ban

Chicago, IL - In light of Russia's new 'gay propaganda' ban and violent anti-gay position, several Chicago gay bars have pulled Russian Vodka.

The owners of Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted, announced the popular Boystown bar is removing Stolichnaya Vodka (Stoli) and other Russian products. 

"I had been following the various news reports about what was going on in Russia," Sidetrack co-owner Art Johnston told Windy City Times. "It's hard to believe that they could carry out and enforce that kind of a law, but they did."

On June 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bans "gay propaganda." The law prohibits any positive talk or display of homosexuality. Violators of the law face hefty fines and foreigners found guilty can be jailed for two weeks and then deported. 

A few days later, on July 3, Putin signed legislation barring foreign same-sex couples from adopting Russian children. 

A statement on Sidetrack's Facebook page read: "The Stoli story is complicated by decades of lawsuits whereby the actual Government of Russia has laid claim to the Stolichnaya brand name. Very soon the Russian government itself, which bans positive portrayals of LGBT people, may be the beneficiary of the goodwill earned by Stoli's distributors and bars over the years." 

The Call, 1547 W. Bryn Mawr, also posted a sign stating they are "Proudly serving non-Russian vodkas."

Update: Elixir Lounge, Halsted's Bar and Grill, Hydrate Nightclub and Replay on Thursday announced they have pulled Russian made products from their shelves. (Read LKH Management press release) Parlour has also pulled Russian products. 

Worldwide boycott

Despite an organized boycott by Queer Nation, Johnston said his decision was a matter of conscience and not an effort to ignite a widespread boycott.

Brands named in the worldwide ban by Queer Nation include Russian Standard and Stolichnaya. Russian vodkas currently available in the US include Dovgan, Gold Symphony, Standart, Hrenovuha, Kauffman , Kubanskaya, Moskovskaya, Narodnaya, Pyatizvyozdnaya, Putinka, Rodnik, Ruskova, Russian Standard, Shustov, Starka, Stolnaya, Youri Dolgoruki.

Update: Stoli CEO issues letter to LGBT community

Buy local

Organizers of the boycott suggest a switch to another brand from another country, or even a local brand from a local distillery. In Chicago, Halsted Vodka, which is served at Sidetrack, gives 15% of their profits to LGBT groups.

(Read more about Chicago's Halsted Vodka

Olympics boycott

A number of LGBT activists have also called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 

On July 17, the International Olympic Committee issued this statement, "The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation...As you know, this legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi. As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators, and the media."

Related: 36 Photos From Russia That Everyone Needs To See (BuzzFeed)