Boycott Stoli? Minnesota gay bars say nyet, not yet

BILL WARD | Updated 8/5/2013

After Russia passed anti-gay measures, gay bars in several cities banned Russian vodka.

Protestors in Hollywood, Calif. emptying Russian vodka into the gutter last week.
Associated Press

Have gay bars responded to a widespread boycott of Russian vodkas after anti-gay measures passed there?

Absolut-ly.

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting Russian children and banning gay “propaganda.”

As a result, several gay bars in San Francisco and West Hollywood, Calif., and Chicago have stopped carrying Stolichnaya, a Russian vodka. Last week in New York, gay rights advocates gathered outside the Russian consulate and emptied bottles of Russian vodka onto the pavement.

So far, the response in Minnesota has been more tempered.

Gay bars, including the 19 and the Saloon in Minneapolis, haven’t pulled the product from their shelves. Instead, they’re “letting the customer decide,” said Casey Rusco, manager at the 19.

Likewise, bartender Jack Kloppenborg said the Saloon is “putting it up to the customers. As one of our managers put it, we’ve already paid for it, and you don’t have to order it unless you want it. But that’s your decision.”

Kloppenborg added that, contrary to popular perception, most Stolichnaya is not made in Russia. “There is a Stoli that’s purely made there,” he said, “but the one we sell just uses some components from Russia.”

The situation doesn’t pose much of a problem at Gay 90’s, said bartender Steve Swonder. “We don’t sell very much Stoli,” he said. “Of the premium brands, that’s probably the least that we sell. We do sell a lot of Absolut, which is Swedish — big surprise there.”