Illegal Entrepreneur “Vagabond” Works Hard to Please Customers

(p. 16) . . . nutcrackers, homemade brews that are not technically classified as to-go cocktails in New York, are still illegal, as is drinking in local parks and beaches.

. . .

Vagabond, who is in his early 30s, has kept his face and name out of articles for fear of getting into legal trouble. He said that he started selling cocktails for $10 to $15 in the park during the summer of 2020 — after his restaurant temporarily shut down — to support his family.

“None of the restaurants were open; the beaches were closed,” he said. “The only places to be were people’s backyards or the park.”

He said that nutcrackers were traditionally “really sweet, really harsh alcohol, and it’s just going to give you a buzz,” but that many sellers found ways to rebrand and shake up the colorful drinks during the pandemic.

Vagabond said that he puts a lot of thought into his cocktails, using specific liqueurs and infusing them with herbs like mint and basil, which requires extra time and effort.

Some people balk at the idea of spending $15 on a nutcracker. But as Mr. Lewis jokes about his drink, “I prefer the gentrified term — ‘craft cocktail.’”

He also said that in the nearly two years since he’s been selling the drinks, he’s never been stopped by the police.

. . .

Vagabond said that an article that featured him in 2020 gave him an uncomfortable amount of exposure.

“Within days of this New York Post article coming out, N.Y.P.D. was looking for my Instagram,” he said. “My worst fear came true. I got caught.”

After being let off with a warning, he decided selling in the park wasn’t worth the heightened risk and effort. Now, he said, he mostly just delivers drinks — occasionally catering events like birthdays and weddings.

“Some people think I just magically appear in the park and I’m just strolling along,” he said. “I think people miss how hard and demanding it is.”

Mr. Lewis also said that he’s hoping Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams will consider legalizing the work that nutcracker vendors do around the city.

“Don’t criminalize this, incorporate this,” he said. “I would rather pay a $200 license fee than a $200 fine.”

He said that he’s on cordial terms with the other people who sell drinks in Prospect Park — “there’s enough pie in New York City for everybody.”

The biggest obstacle he usually faces, he said, is the sheer labor involved in dragging the heavy bags of drinks through the park.

For the full story see:

Julia Carmel. “For Bottle Service With a Smile in a Brooklyn Park, He’s the Man.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 29, 2022): 16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date May 28, 2022, and has the title “Want a Nutcracker or a ‘Craft Cocktail?’ He’s Your Guy.”

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