No equal rights, no vodka nights: gay clubs boycott Russian imports

 

Popular British gay bars and nightclubs have joined a global boycott of Russian vodka brands following allegations of human rights abuses by Vladimir Putin’s government.

Several popular gay venues in London and Manchester – including those run by the influential G-A-Y Group, which operates the world-famous Heaven nightclub – have pledged not to stock Russian vodka, following the lead of dozens of gay bars in the US and Canada.

The boycott comes in the wake of an increasingly aggressive crackdown on gay rights in Russia, including a controversial law signed last month by President Putin that banned the promotion of “non-traditional” relationships to children. In June, all 60 people who took part in the St Petersburg gay pride march were arrested, and many claimed to have been “badly beaten”. Russia’s parliament has also voted for a bill that bans adoption of children by foreign same-sex couples.

The worldwide boycott was launched by the US writer and activist Dan Savage, who urged bars to “dump Russian vodka” to “show solidarity with Russian queers and their allies”. Stolichnaya and Russian Standard are the brands being targeted in Britain by prominent gay club and bar operators.

Jeremy Joseph, the co-founder and owner of the G-A-Y Group, confirmed it was boycotting the brands and urged supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s to do the same. “Gay venues banning Russian vodka isn’t just about trying to hit the Russian economy, but it’s a way of showing solidarity and that the lesbian and gay community in Russia are on our minds,” he said.

Gary Henshaw, who runs London’s Ku Bar, which has also joined the boycott, said he had visited Moscow in March last year during the city’s pride celebrations. He told The Independent: “I went looking for the planned and banned gay pride march. I failed to find it. It was broken up practically before it started and had very few attendees.

“I was quite angry at the time. Now with hindsight I realise that gay Russians live in fear of the authorities, and those authorities have hardened their resolve to criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

Other venues in the capital that have joined the boycott include Soho’s Manbar and The Shadow Lounge.

A spokesman for Britain’s largest gay rights campaign group Stonewall said: “We are disturbed by the ongoing human rights abuses in Russia. We are talking with activists on the ground about the best way to respond before taking any action.”

One of the two brands targeted by the boycott has already launched a PR campaign to distance itself from the Russian government’s stance on gay rights. In an open letter to members of the LGBT community in the UK, Val Mendeleev, the chief executive officer of the SPI Group, which owns Stolichnaya, said that the vodka, produced by the state in Soviet times and a reported favourite of Boris Yeltsin, is produced by the SPI Group in Latvia, albeit using Russian ingredients.

“Stoli firmly opposes such attitude and actions. Stolichnaya vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community,” he said.

Russian Standard vodka is still produced in Russia and owned by the Russian oligarch Roustam Tariko. The company, which sells 2.9 million cases a year, has declined to comment.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future