Vodka boybott misses its Russian target, hits Latvia

RIGA, Latvia — Many gay bars in North America have stopped selling the famous Stolichnaya vodka brand to protest Russia’s crackdown on the gay community. But the vodka’s maker has joined forces with Latvia’s leading gay rights group to say that the boycott is misplaced.

Though Stolichnaya is an historic Russian brand and some of its ingredients come from Russia, virtually all of the Stoli sold in the west is made in Latvia, a former Soviet republic that is now part of NATO and the European Union. It’s the perception that it’s Russian that’s prompted the boycott — Russia recently introduced a law that bans so-called “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” and imposes hefty fines on those holding gay pride rallies.

The vodka is produced in Latvia by Latvijas Balzams, which has 600 employees and is one of the nation’s biggest exporters. However, Latvijas Balzams is nearly 90 percent owned by Luxembourg-based SPI Group, which in turn is controlled by Yury Shefler, a Russian-born billionaire who left Russia a decade ago after falling out with the Kremlin over his support of opposition political parties.

SPI said it was “very optimistic” that there would be a breakthrough in talks with activists advocating the boycott.

“We have been active in setting the records straight — that we stand on the same side and that we hate to be associated with the attitude and actions of the Russian government on this issue,” SPI said in an email to the Associated Press.

And Mozaika, Latvia’s homosexual rights group, appealed to organizers of the “Dump Stoli! Dump Russian Vodka!” to drop their campaign.

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

Despite the boycott, Latvijas Balzams officials said the distillery saw no reason to consider decreasing Stolichnaya output in light of the boycott and that production of the vodka was up 10 percent in the first six months of the year.

As yet, there’s no sign that the boycott will be called off. One group, Queer Nation, contended that SPI remained an appropriate target for a boycott.

“Though the company claims to be friend to our community, it was silent as the Russian government considered this horrific law, and it said nothing after the law was enacted,” Queer Nation said in a statement. “Stolichnaya only spoke up after the boycott was announced. Friends do not keep silent when those they claim to value are under attack.”

Queer Nation urged Mozaika to put pressure on SPI to take action in Russia seeking repeal of the legislation that’s caused such outrage.

More in Herald Business Journal

More than 60 Boeing 737s per month: Can suppliers keep up?

There was lots of talk this week about the prudence and pressures of soaring production rates.

Developer proposes an 18-story building in Lynnwood

It would be the second-tallest in the county and include apartments with retail space.

Even as stock markets shook, many investors held steady

Older investors were buying stocks, but at a lower rate than their younger counterparts.

Snohomish County business licenses

PLEASE NOTE: Business license information is obtained monthly from the Washington Secretary… Continue reading

New Everett mayor speaks out about business in city, region

Q&A: Cassie Franklin on what can be done to get Boeing to build the 797 here and attract new industries.

Aerospace analyst explains how he’ll help state’s Boeing bid

Richard Aboulafia will deliver a report on Washington’s strengths and weaknesses in landing the 797.

Air passenger traffic growing faster than airplane capacity

“Our customers are in a good place,” a Boeing marketing executive says of the airlines.

JC Penney to close store at the Cascade Mall in Burlington

Eight store closures will result in about 480 job cuts, according to CNBC.

Budget: Lockheed gets almost as much as State Department

Boeing is in second place with annual sales of $26.5 billion in 2016.

Most Read