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LA, Chicago bars join Russian vodka ban to protest anti-gay law

UPI News Service, 07/26/2013 

Bars in British Columbia, Los Angeles and Chicago say they will not sell Russian vodka to protest Russian law allowing for the arrest of suspected gay tourists.

Andrew Wattling, manager of the Fountainhead Pub in Vancouver, said Russian vodka brands such as Stolichnaya and Russian Standard will no longer be served at the establishment, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Friday.

The Russian law includes a ban on giving minors information on "non-traditional" sexual relationships and gives police the power to arrest tourists or foreign nationals suspected of being homosexuals or supporting homosexuality.

"Not doing anything is almost agreeing with it. So silence is acceptance, and you know, we can all just sit back and not do something," Wattling said. "This is one small tiny thing that we can do to sort of stand up and support LGBT communities in Russia and worldwide."

A number of bars in West Hollywood -- where an estimated 40 percent of the population is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender -- have taken Stolichnaya Vodka off their shelves, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Sidetrack, a Chicago gay bar, said it will remove Stolichnaya and other Russian products from its shelves, The Windy City Times reported.

Sidetrack owner Art Johnston said the decision was a matter of conscience.

Val Mendeleev, chief executive officer of the SPI Group, which owns the Stolichnaya brand, said in an open letter Thursday the brand "has always been, and continues to be a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community," the Times reported.

"We fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia," Mendeleev said in the letter. "In the past decade, SPI has been actively advocating in favor of freedom, tolerance and openness in society, standing very passionately on the side of the LGBT community and will continue to support any effective initiative in that direction."

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