The boycott quickly caught on and gay bars across the country jumped on the “Dump Stoli” campaign. But critics immediately argued the Stoli brand being boycotted isn’t really Russian. Stoli CEO Val Mendelev wrote a July 25 public letter to the LGBT community saying his company has always supported equality for all.
He explained the Russian government has nothing to do with his brand, which is privately owned by SPI Group, headquartered in Luxembourg. While Stoli is made from Russian ingredients such as wheat, rye and raw alcohol, it is produced and bottled in Latvia, which became an independent state in 1948.
Last call for Stoli at some Atlanta bars
In Atlanta, Robby Kelley, co-owner of the Atlanta Eagle, didn’t wait for the official boycott to begin in July — after the Russian anti-gay law passed June 11, he posted to his Facebook page June 15 that the Eagle was done with the vodka that originated in Russia.
“I know Stoli is not made in Russia but profits made from it goes there. The Atlanta Eagle will no longer carry these vodkas. When we are out, we are out. I’m a small bar but [feel] like [it’s] my job [not] to support vodka or [products] from a country that just removed the rights of the lgbt community for the next 100 years,” Kelley wrote.
Blake’s on the Park announced on its Facebook page July 31 it would also stop selling Stoli, stating, “While our refusal to serve Stoli in itself is not necessarily a grand gesture likely to bring about reform, this act may prove effective in helping to at least begin to stir the winds of change.”
Amsterdam Atlanta joined the boycott by posting a photo to its Facebook page stating it is standing in solidarity with Russian LGBT people by “Proudly not serving Stolichnya.”
But Richard Cherskov, managing owner of Jungle, believes the boycott of Stoli is “misplaced.”
“Stoli has been a supporter of the community (at least in America) and this boycott will hurt Americans (i.e. local distributors, etc.) more than it help this cause in Russia,” he said in an email interview.
Lewis Covington, manager of Friends on Ponce, is siding with Jungle on this one. “As I understand it Stoli is headquartered in Luxembourg, made with Russian grains and raw alcohol, and bottled in Latvia. I don’t know if that makes it worthy of boycott,” he said.
“However, I have no problem pouring out Russian vodkas and never serving another drop as long as Russia oppresses our gay, lesbian, and transgender brothers and sisters. Their treatment is deplorable, disgraceful, and scurrilous,” he added.
Oscar’s and Hideaway are not going to be pouring out their Stoli stock. Burkhart’s management says its stands with LGBT people in Russia, but the owner is away on vacation so the bar has not taken an official stance on the boycott.
Las Margaritas owner Oscar Valdivieso said his gay-fave bar and restaurant does not carry Russian vodkas.
In East Atlanta, Jen Maguire, co-owner of My Sister’s Room, said the bar has never carried Stoli and will not carry the brand. Ben Cheaves, co-owner of Mary’s, said his bar is not pulling Stoli from its stock.
Marietta gay bar LeBuzz is also keeping Stoli for now. “My liquor distributor sent me a letter the CEO wrote and based on what the letter said we are taking no action at this point. That could change. But it is a private company and has nothing to do with the Russian government,” said owner Johnathon Murphy.