Stolichnaya Vodka, the label targeted by the gay Russian vodka boycott, is actually produced in Riga, Latvia — which is why gay Latvians are pleading with gay bars and LGBT people all around the world to stop blacklisting the brand. Last we checked in, the gay bar boycott of Stoli had spread worldwide, with bars from Vancouver to London swearing off the stuff.
Despite the ban, there's little sign that Russia is feeling the heat. That can't be said of Latvia, a country caught in the crossfire.
"All Stolichnaya vodka for worldwide export is produced in Latvia. Stolichnaya is produced by the Latvian company Latvijas Balzams and production takes place in Riga," read a statement from Mozaika, a Latvian LGBT activist organization, which was subsequently quoted by Gay Star News. "This campaign will only harm Latvia, Latvia’s economy and employees of the company Latvijas Balzams ... It could also backfire and have unintended negative consequences for the extremely fragile LGBT community in Latvia."
While some Stoli production does take place in Latvia, it's not a 100-percent Latvian product. As Stoli's CEO Val Mendeleev acknowledged in response to the ban, some of the production does take place in Russia (that's the reason some of the bottles have "Russian Vodka" on the label, while others have "Premium Vodka").
Mozaika's statement adds to the growing number of arguments against the boycott, and echoes perhaps the most solid of those—Stoli and its employees are not the Russian lawmakers who have been creating and passing aggressive anti-gay laws. And Stoli — as well as the company that owns it, SPI — has been an ally to the gay community in the past. Bloomberg Businessweek's Vanessa Wong has a brief recap of Stoli's gay-friendly stance:
Stoli, under SPI, produced a documentary series called Be Real: Stories From Queer America in 2006, for instance. And in search of LGBT ambassadors for the brand, Stoli has been holding a series of events in U.S. cities since July 9 called the Most Original Stoli Guy.
To Dan Savage, the creator of the boycott, that's not good enough. "SPI is a Russian corporation, Stoli is a Russian vodka. And while it's nice that SPI is willing to market to homos who are lucky enough to live in Austria, the US, and South Africa, what has SPI done in Russia?," he said in response to Mendeleev's letter. Savage hasn't commented on Mozaika's pleas just yet.
Inset photo by: Wikimedia Commons
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.