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
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot