Canada: Vancouver bars join ‘dump Russia vodka’ campaign over anti-gay laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

At least two bars in Vancouver have joined the battle against the controversial Russian anti-gay “propaganda” laws by refusing to sell Russian made vodka.

President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial law last month banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

Four Dutch tourists shooting a film about gay rights in Russia were arrested earlier this month, the first foreigners to be detained under the new law.

Following the lead of other UK and US based companies also in solidarity with Dan Savage’s “dump Russian vodka” campaign, Drew Watling, the manager of the Fountainhead Pub in Vancouver has pulled Russian vodka brands from his bar.

Mr Watling said: “We’re just taking a stand in solidarity and support for the LGBT community worldwide.

“If enough people stand up and say something then hopefully it’ll get a lot more notoriety and get people talking.”

In addition, he has also said that if Moscow does not backtrack on its new laws by the time of the Olympic Winter Games, the sports bar won’t be screening them.

This comes in solidarity with a recent UK petition urging the British government to boycott the Russian Winter Olympic games next year, which has been signed by over 5,000 people so far.

Celebrities nightclub, located across the street from the Fountainhead, said on its Facebook page it also won’t be selling Russian vodka.

The bar’s patron Scott Finch said he’s in support of the boycott, calling Putin’s actions against gay people “criminal.”

“I’ve tried to avoid anything to do with Russia for a long time,” said Mr Finch.

Ku Bar, a gay bar in Soho London, has also shown its support with a new advertisment which reads: “We serve a range of non-Russian vodka.”

Stolinyacha recently joined the battle against anti-gay laws in Russia as well, with a message on its facebook page which says: “Stolichnaya Premium Vodka stands strong & proud with the global LGBT community against the actions and beliefs of the Russian government.”

Mr Mendeleev, the Stolinyacha chief executive, said he was “upset and angry,” and “has always been, and continues to be a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community.”

Dan Savage, in his polemical blog post wrote: “Stoli is a Russian vodka. Do not drink Russian vodka. Do not buy Russian vodka. Ask your bartender at your favorite bar—gay or otherwise—to dump Stoli and dump Russian vodka.”

Last week, speaking exclusively to PinkNews, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged Russia to protect the rights of LGBT citizens following concerns about gay athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympics.

He said: “Those days should be long behind us now and for those countries and those governments and regimes who don’t see it that way I think they have to move with the times.”