Portland food cart pods are showing that adding alcohol to their menus hasn’t been negative to the city at all.
PORTLAND, OR - A couple of years ago, Portland’s food carts — beloved by hipsters, downtown business people, neighborhood folks and tourists alike — offered strictly PG fare.
Now, they’re all grown up.
Nearly a third of the city’s food cart pods now serve beer, wine or cocktails.
Thirteen of the 36 food cart pods citywide have in the past two years sought and received liquor licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Thanks to a set of OLCC restrictions on the licenses, the infusion of alcohol hasn’t had any ill effect on the industry.
“We haven’t seen any public-safety impact at these businesses,” says Christie Scott, an OLCC spokeswoman. The OLCC board approved the restrictions as permanent rules last Friday, for the first time differentiating food carts from other outdoor areas like patios and sidewalk seating.
The rules limit customers to no more than two drinks at a time (16 ounces of beer or cider, 6 ounces of wine, or 2 ounces of distilled spirits); except to allow two people to share a standard 750-ml bottle of wine, and three people to share a 64-ounce pitcher of beer.
“No minors” signs must be posted, and there’s no drinking or amplified music past 10 p.m.
Finally, boundaries for the “alcohol consumption area” must be enforced by the licensee.
The more social, community-minded vibe is a big draw for the carts, especially out in East Portland, says Roger Goldingay, owner of Cartlandia, on Southeast 82nd Avenue, as well as the 10-cart Mississippi Marketplace in North Portland.
“There’s nothing cool out here, except us,” he says.
Two years ago, he was the first in the city to be granted a food cart alcohol license, after a bureaucratic struggle.
Two weekends ago, Cartlandia opened The Blue Room, an on-site bar and restaurant that will offer live music on the weekends and a place for people to enjoy a beer with their food cart fare.
The space features its signature teal walls, a stage for live music, five large-screen TVs to play sports and “Portlandia,” and a bar made from a salvaged piece of an 1860s church and an old pipe organ. They offer beer 18 beers and ciders on tap, along with cocktails and a short menu of five items, required by the OLCC.
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