WeHo’s Larry Block and Stoli’s Val Mendeleev Make a Connection

Stoli's Val Mendeleev
Stoli’s Val Mendeleev

The “DumpStoli” campaign in protest of Russia’s enactment of anti-gay laws has taken on more of a WeHo twist.

Larry Block, city activist, owner of the Block Party clothing store and an opponent of the DumpStoli campaign, has been chatting with the owner of Stoli himself.

Val Mendeleev, CEO of SPI Group, the Luxembourg-based company that owns the Stolichnaya vodka brand, happens to have attended Harvard Business School with Block’s brother-in-law, which Block learned yesterday.

Block is part of a growing group in the gay community that has pointed out that the rush to boycott Stolichnaya vodka is misguided because Stoli isn’t actually distilled in Russia (although the grain from which it is made is grown there), SPI Group isn’t based in Russia, and Mendeleev is seriously out of favor with the regime of Vladimir Putin, sponsor of the anti-gay laws. What’s more, as Block and others have pointed out, Stoli is involved as a sponsor in a number of gay community events.

“I’d like to raise the bar on this fight and hope to have your support,” Block wrote in an email message to Mendeleev, a copy of which was made available to WEHOville. “I chair the disability board and will be running for City Council in the next election. This has divided our Russian community from the LGBT community. Not sure where to start but your life story is one that shows me that you have stood up against the Russian government and against oppression. I want to help get your message out.”

“I prefer the talk to be less focused on me personally (even as I do have a personal background linked to fighting KGB and other Russian institutions) but rather on Stoli being inappropriately singled out without doing a proper research in advance,” Mendeleev wrote in a reply to Block. “Hope to meet you one day.”

Block is one of the few business owners on the west end of Santa Monica Boulevard who refused to participate in a demonstration last Thursday in which West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran and owners of bars such as Micky’s and Revolver poured water from Stoli bottles in a symbolic protest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story erred in stating that Larry Block’s brother-in-law and Val Mendeleev attended the London School of Economics. They both attended the Harvard Business School.


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Tony R.
Guest
Tony R.

Im curious if Duran has done anything since his big photo op to bring the Stoli ban to a possible solution. Seems like we have a vehicle in Block to have a dialog. Appears Duran likes drama and photo ops. Wondering if he has reached out to Block to help forge a dialog and solution. Perhaps next week there can be a solution born in West Hollywood using Block’s connection. My guess is Duran doesnt want a solution and would burn at Block taking a leadership role after Duran’s gaffe on the flag issue your other aritcle..Block draws Ire of… Read more »

Terry
Guest
Terry

Ku-dos to Larry! I can’t tell you how fed up I am with a certain councilmember’s love affair with the camera. It’s become embarrassing to the city.

victor
Guest
victor

a toast to block. niet to these childish boycotts
knee jerk reactions are usually wrong

M. Ward
Guest
M. Ward

Ive become educated, Thank You. I was opposed but think now that we need to put the Vodka back on the shelves. Im sure that didnt effect Putin anyway. I believe our President will work on this.It took America many years to get educated, noww it time to Educate, not Boycott Russia.

Tony
Guest
Tony

Mr. Block you have my respect and admiration and my vote. The deck is stacked against you as they have their anointed one. The recent appointment to the planning commission is the political machine insiders at work. I laughed when you pushed Heilman to shake Damcio’s hand and clapped at your term limit speeches. You just might be the guy who can beat the machine with guts.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

I think I need a double Stoli with a splash of Cranberry to help me forget.

Clair
Guest
Clair

Hooray for people who are not blindly following this stupid boycott. Why has no one mentioned that this symbolic pouring out water from Stoli bottles was orchestrated by the publicist husband of the manager of Revolver and that WeHo bars have made deals with with other vodka companies?

90069
Guest
90069

Interesting that Larry Block just announced he is running for City Council. I think that is news, before it was only reported that he was flirting with the idea. Grabbing hold of this “controversy” which is petty on both Stoli and Duran’s side is a smart political move. It allows him to make inroads with the Russian community, which is critical to winning low turnout West Hollywood elections. The russian community is old and on assistance so they are able to prioritize going to our off-season elections and filling the ballot box. I disagree with Ms Ross on her suggestion… Read more »

Brady
Guest
Brady

It’s nice to see an individual similar to Harvey Milk standing up for what is right rather than going on frivolous ventures in the media pouring water out of vodka bottles. What we need to be doing is gaining knowledge before taking actions against the innocent. The attack against stoli is the same ignorant attack the Russians are taking against gays. Gain some knowledge people!

Kerrigan
Guest
Kerrigan

Finally some people are thinking clearly here! I agree with Block – the Stoli boycott is not only misguided but unintelligently links the LGBT community to bars and drinking, which is fine for some but unrepresentative of the community at large. It’s embarrassing how trite it all appears. Further, is a WeHo ban on Stoli really going to influence Russian policy? An Olympic boycott, or even some high level US corp. endorsements of policy change and challenges to existing policy would go a lot further. Let’s hope Block can bridge the gap here.

Christian
Guest
Christian

Go Larry Go….seems like your on the right side of most of the issues fighting for truth, justice and the American way!

jimhieron
Guest
jimhieron

Congrats on International diplomacy !