When I first became vegan and starting searching for other vegans in my area, I did a web search and discovered Vegan Drinks. Vegan Drinks started in New York City and is described on their website as “a monthly social networking event for people interested in promoting veganism and advocating for animal rights.”
Unfortunately, I learned the closest Vegan Drinks was an hour away so I decided to create my own. Voila! Binghamton Vegan Drinks was born and I was surprised at how easily it all came together.
The first thing I did was contact the co-owner of one of our favorite restaurants, Water Street Brewing Co. — in the heart of downtown Binghamton. Their large space, fantastic beers, and delicious food draw many patrons.
Every time we’ve eaten there, the staff has been very accommodating to us as vegans. It helps that many of their entrees are vegan or veganizable. My favorite is their tempeh spiedies. Spiedies are a local favorite usually made by grilling marinated cubes of meat and serving it on a slice of Italian bread. The vegan version is made with marinated and grilled tempeh which is served on pita bread with lettuce tomato and onion. They also make homemade vegan pretzels, a Sundays-only treat.
When I pitched the idea to Michele Bleichert, co-owner of the brewpub, she jumped at the chance to host Binghamton’s first Vegan Drinks. We decided to hold the event at 3 pm on Sundays since that’s usually a slower time for them — and we had the added bonus of the pretzels! The turnout: 22 hungry and thirsty people who never would have come to the brewpub that afternoon if it weren’t for the Vegan Drinks event. We even had people come from an hour away to attend.
Here are some tips to help you get Vegan Drinks started in your area:
- Find a restaurant/bar willing to accommodate you. Show the value to the owner and decide on a time and day of the week that will benefit both of you.
- If you have another Vegan Drinks group within an hour or so of your location, contact them. Ask them what worked and what didn’t work and solicit their advice for making your event a success. I contacted a friend who co-organizes Vegan Drinks in nearby Ithaca who told me to not expect the number of people who RSVP’d to actually show up. She was right. We had 33 say they would attend and ended up with 22. There’s no sense re-inventing the wheel when there are others who have experiences to share.
- Have nametags and a list of menu items that are vegan or easily made vegan. This both helps your guests and assists the staff when taking orders.
- Create a Facebook page and each month create an event page within it to draw people to attend.
- Work out a mutual agreement with neighboring Vegan Drinks organizers to share events.
- Post your event on your local vegan or vegetarian Meetup group’s page.
- Look for free local outlets in which to advertise your event. “Eventful” is a good one that will allow your event to show up in web search results. Sometimes simply hanging a poster in the sponsoring restaurant can entice people to check it out.
- Make sure you email Vegan Drinks to have them add your group to their webpage. And check out their website for more information on getting started.
Christine Day is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator (VLCE) living in Vestal, New York with her vegan husband, teenaged daughter, a retired racing greyhound and two cats. She is a freelancer, world traveler and owner of A New Day Vegan Lifestyle Coaching. Check out her website at www.anewdayvegan.com