Several West Hollywood bar owners stood curbside Thursday, each holding a large Stolichnaya vodka bottle.
The men planned to pour out the containers, filled with water, in symbolic protest of anti-gay legislation that recently passed in Russia, Stolichnaya's home, banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" such as informing kids about homosexuality.
“We do street theater to raise public consciousness about the issue,” said West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran.
Duran and the owners do not blame the vodka company, per se.
LGBT people are being beaten, jailed and killed for acts as small as holding a rainbow flag, said Alfredo Diaz, owner of Revolver Video Bar in West Hollywood. Diaz and others called for an immediate end to such abuse.
The Russian vodka brand is no longer served at numerous gay bars, including Revolver and Micky's, where the demonstration occurred. Bars that cater to gays in San Francisco, Chicago and other cities have also said they are boycotting Stoli vodka.
The owners emphasized that they refused to simply “stand by” and ignore the human rights violations occurring abroad. The spirits company has money and power to help make change, they said, as do Western governments.
“We’re here to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Russia,” Diaz said.
Around 11:15 a.m., the owners lined up in front of Micky’s on a red Stoli promotional carpet that had been covered in large X’s made from tape. They awaited the direction of Duran.
Labels on the containers, which once held blueberry-, raspberry-, orange- and vanilla-flavored Stoli, varied in color and formed a sort of pride symbol themselves.
“Gentleman, please start your pouring,” Duran said.
They tipped the bottles toward the street.