Leave Rehab, Get a Beer
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Leave Rehab, Get a Beer


Leave Rehab Get a BeerI don’t know much about what goes down on Skid Row in Los Angeles, the area of downtown that’s east of Main Street, south of Third Street, west of Alameda Street and north of Seventh Street. But I do know that Wikipedia’s summation that it has one of the largest US homeless populations—between 3,000 and 6,000—isn’t surprising.

So it isn’t exactly the kind of place you expect to find a shrewd businessman like “Skid Row Ricky.”

Yet according to LA Weekly, 49-year-old Ricky Wesco, nicknamed Skid Row Ricky by the community, is the proprietor of a booming business that sells beer to homeless people. And while Ricky might have the catchiest nickname on the block, he’s not alone in his efforts. In 2012, the LA Times reported that there were several beer-bearing street vendors who were using the chaotic conditions of Skid Row and the 2011 Federal court order (which inhibits LAPD’s authority to confiscate objects from the street) to their advantage.

Entrepreneurial Brewing

And while I am confident that Wesco and his cohorts haven’t acquired the proper licensing or are bothering to card minors, a part of me can understand where they are coming from. Every time the nice Mexican lady shoves her long stem roses in my face while I am trying to enjoy tikka masala, I think that we could all benefit from a little economic creativity. So maybe Ricky’s unconventional bodega wouldn’t be so bad if he hadn’t set up his flagship location right outside the James M. Wood Community Center, which offers many services—including rehab. This kind of hard-to-believe unethical behavior reminds me of those bars you would hear about that offered free drinks in exchange for AA sobriety chips. But while those rumors may have been urban legends, Skid Row Ricky is not.

With market-leveling prices of $2 tall boys (just $1 if he can call you a friend), I would have thought Wesco would be the Pied Piper of Skid Row. But actually the community has been looking to the LAPD for help in having The Rickster kicked to a different curb. According to the Weekly, after pleas for human decency fell on deaf ears, more than 100 Skid Row residents—many in recovery programs—have petitioned for Wesco’s removal.

The Fault of Freedom

But why is it so hard for Wesco Pesco (I just made that up!) to get the boot? Unfortunately, the federal court order has made it tricky to bust people for this and selling booze to addicts 30 seconds out of rehab falls under America’s “free country” clause. Look, isn’t it hard enough to stay sober without temptation—at a discount price—being waved in front of your face when you’re at your most vulnerable?

LAPD Officer Deon Joseph told The Times that illegal beer sales “only exacerbate the grim atmosphere” on Skid Row. Apparently people who reside in shelters and weekly hotels in the area have complained that vendors—like Wesco—are “drunk and rude to women.” And hey, everyone knows it’s not professional to get high on your own supply.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.