ALBERTA

Vodka Boycott: Calgary, Edmonton Bars Dump Booze To Protest Anti-Gay Laws

08/07/2013 04:00 EDT

Several Edmonton and Calgary gay bars are the latest to join the worldwide boycott of Russian vodka, in a move to protest that country's recent adoption of laws targeting the LGBTQ community.

According to Metro News, Twisted Element and The Back Lot, both in Calgary, have banned the spirit, as well as Up Stares Ultra Lounge in Edmonton.

Everybody is very supportive of it (the ban),” Twisted Element co-owner RayJean Fafard told Metro Calgary.

“I have Russians coming in all the time to my club, crying on my shoulders all the time, wishing they could do what they do in my nightclub in Russia, which is be themselves.”

The laws passed in Russia makes “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” illegal, meaning gay pride parades and rainbow flags are now outlawed. As well, gay couples can no longer adopt children.

Global activists have encouraged the boycott of all Russian-made products, including several brands of vodka.

Up Stares Ultra Lounge bartender Laryssa Izio told Metro Edmonton the boycott is a symbolic gesture and hopes non-gay bars in Alberta will also join the protest

“For the straight community in North America to be in solidarity with us and our Russian family that would be huge,” she said.

Several bars in Vancouver have pulled Russian vodka from their shelves in past weeks, reports the Vancouver Province, joining hundreds of other establishments across North America.

Latvijas Balzams distillers, who manufacture Stolichnaya vodka – a brand many bars have poured down the drain – took action last week in an attempt to distance themselves from the Russian government.

They argue that while historically Stoli is a Russian brand, most of the product sold in North America is made in Latvia.

Stoli's CEO Val Mendeleev, issued an open letter last week, clarifying the company's support of the LGBTQ community.

"I want to stress that 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," Mendeleev wrote.

Mozaika, a Latvian gay rights group, said in a statement last Thursday, “This campaign will only harm Latvia, Latvia’s economy and employees of the company Latvijas Balzams.”

Still, that hasn't stopped The Back Lot in Calgary from pulling the brand from their bar well.

Daniel Mallett, a bartender at The Back Lot, todl Metro Calgary they removed both Stoli and Smirnoff products in response to the controversy.

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