A Bushwick combination yoga studio-bar is auctioning off and eradicating the remainder of its Bulleit spirits after the brand, known for its whiskey and bourbon, was accused of being anti-LGBT.
In response to a contested claim by the daughter of the Kentucky-based distillery’s founder, who says she was kicked out of the family business for being a lesbian, The Cobra Club will destroy every Bulleit bottle purchased at a Wednesday evening auction. Bidders will instead be awarded a bottle of locally distilled Little Wolf Whiskey, the venue said in a recent Facebook post. Local drag queen Ragamuffin is hosting the event.
Owners cited the “anti-LGBTQ stance of the Bulleit family” as the reason for their decision to liquidate their Bulleit stock and boycott the embattled brand. In a series of Facebook posts earlier this month, former brand ambassador Hollis Bulleit accused the business — currently run by the international beverage giant Diageo — of repeatedly excluding her and her partner from family and company events and ultimately cutting her loose due to her sexual orientation.
While founder Tom Bulleit and Diageo denied these claims, supporters adopted the hashtags #whereshollis and #hollisismyhero, promising to boycott Bulleit and Diageo products in their comments on her posts.
In its own display of fellowship, the Cobra Club is donating auction profits to an anti-LGBT discrimination nonprofit, GLSEN. The Clinton Hill-based makers of Little Wolf Whiskey are gifting their wares.
Asked for comment on the local auction’s agenda, a Diageo spokeswoman said any implication that Hollis Bulleit had been fired or released due to her LGBT identity was “simply false.”
“In advance of Hollis’ contract expiring in 2016, we offered her a multi-year extension. Despite it being an increase versus her previous arrangement, we were unfortunately not able to reach agreement with her on this new contract,” she said in a statement, also pointing to Diageo’s long track record of work to support the LGBT community.
In a letter to his local newspaper, Tom Bulleit said his daughter’s allegations “greatly sadden[ed]” his family, which “has no prejudice toward anyone.”
“I think it’s important to not leap to conclusions or be so quick to pass judgment on people or organizations when we don’t know the full story,” said one Facebook user posting on Cobra Club’s page. “We should also think of all the Bulleit employees that would be affected by a boycott. I’m sure many of them are very good people, and most likely some are LGBT themselves.”
Noting that Hollis Bulleit’s allegations are anecdotal and directed, in part, at her family, not the Bulleit company, “Why waste good whiskey?” the commenter asked.
The Cobra Club did not immediately return a request for comment.
The “Bye Bye, Bulleit” auction takes place at the bar, located at 6 Wyckoff Ave., at 9 p.m.