Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., today said that it would be removing Stolichnaya Vodka and other Russian products from their shelves. The decision comes in the wake of Russia's implementation of oppressive anti-gay laws last month.
NOTE: See update on this topic here: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/More-bars-stop-selling-Russian-products/43827.html .
"I had been following the various news reports about what was going on in Russia," said co-owner Art Johnston. "It's hard to believe that they could carry out and enforce that kind of a law, but they did." He added that there was no way he could in good conscience continue to serve Stolichnaya or any other Russian products at the nightclub.
Businesses that imported and distributed Stolichnaya for Sidetrack have been huge supporters of the LGBT community, Johnston said. "They've always been quite responsive to us, so it's not a move that we take lightly."
The ownership of the Stolichnaya name was the subject of international litigation for many years. In 2012, it was returned to the Russian government. A statement Sidetrack posted on its Facebook page noted the irony: "Very soon the Russian government itself, which bans positive portrayals of LGBT people, may be the beneficiary of the goodwill earned by Stoli's distributors and bars over the years."
Johnston also emphasized that the decision was a matter of conscience and not an effort to ignite a widespread boycott. "The purpose of this was not to say that we we're better than other businesses. Other businesses have their own concerns and may not be in the same position to do something like this."
Sidetrack also refuses to sell products from Jamaica, among them Myers Rum and Red Stripe Beer.
The Call gay bar, 1547 W. Bryn Mawr, also posted a sign stating they are "Proudly serving non-Russian vodkas."
Dan Savage's detailed report on Russian vodkas and connections with Stoli