So, as the move to boycott Stoli and other Russian vodkas gains steam, some people are going to find themselves in tough corners: wanting to help, but not being able to convince straight bar owners to join the boycott.
While politically savvy and activist gay bar owners, workers, and patrons will be right on board, gay bars alone probably won't do the trick of economically hurting SPI and getting the oligarchs to pressure Putin to reverse course on homophobic laws and discrimination. The boycott needs to move to sports bars, hotel bars, mainstream restaurants that serve booze, and every corner bar in the land for it to succeed.
Changing one's twitter avatar won't get that done. Many straight bar owners won't care, or won't want to risk otherwise positive relationships with distributors (who give them discounts on this, that, and the other booze, beyond the Russian brands they handle). The liquor business is all about such quid pro quos and other personal relationships.
The joint I work at one night a week, for instance, is pretty lefty (it was long known as the "hippie bar" in the 'hood) but many long-time regulars swill Stoli like it's mother's milk (they claim it minimizes hangovers; I think not getting drunk minimizes hangovers even better, but whatever). I doubt very much that even my liberal-minded boss would go along with a boycott of Stoli; too many regulars would get angry (though it would have an effect: our distributor once told us we were the biggest black-label Stoli account in Illinois).
But on my shift? We're out of Stoli, sorry.
As an individual bartender, I can refuse to sell Stoli, just as I refuse to make "Irish car bombs" (having known people in Ireland for whom such devices were not a joke, I would no more make one than I would order a "hijacked jetliner" in lower Manhattan). Now, I'm lucky enough to work at a joint where the owner would let me get away with this, and I work solo so I don't have a co-worker to win over.
Many bartenders are not so lucky. Regulars might complain to middle management (the scourge of the "hospitality industry") and get a bartender in hot water for not giving a customer what the customer wanted, especially if it was displayed right there on the shelves (I took our Stoli down last night. . . ).
But refusing to serve Stoli is another strategy, one that gays working in non-gay joints and straight allies everywhere can use to spread the boycott (in effect if not literally) beyond gay bars. All bartenders and servers can and should recommend another vodka, and explain the political situation and the boycott to the customer. If the customer demands Stoli, fine, serve it to avoid getting fired. But I suspect many customers will be happy to have Absolut instead.
In short: gay bar Stoli boycotts are the way to start, but individual servers in the entire liquor business could have an even wider effect, even if a formal boycott never takes hold in most straight-oriented establishments.
So, bartenders and servers of America: if you cannot get your bosses to boycott Stoli, pretend you are out of it. If pretending you are out of it will get you fired, try to talk your customers into another brand. If that doesn't work, well, at least you've spread the word.