Food Freedom

Selling Beer from a Cart in Portland Is Not Rocket Science

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this is a combo I would like to surmount for lunch today

Nothing goes better with tacos than a cold beer, a fact that has not escaped Portland's many food cart owners. Several of the city's growing herd of food carts have requested permission to make that delicious, delicious dream a reality. But an editorial in this week's Oregonian actually uses the word "insurmountable" to describe the regulatory issues involved in getting those permissions:

The [Oregon Liquor Control Commission] has begun analyzing this request slowly, thoughtfully and carefully, as it should. The agency's first stop is the attorney general's office, to explore the legal ramifications of allowing food carts to serve alcohol.

And let's acknowledge that, at present, neither the city nor the state has much experience in this realm.

A wider, deeper exploration of what other states and cities do—and don't do—would be invaluable in guiding Oregon's policy direction. But our first response to the idea of food carts serving alcohol is overwhelmingly tilted in one direction: No, no, no.

There are two problems, as we see it, and not only do they seem insurmountable, but they also appear to be linked.

Seriously, Portland? I mean, a private company launched and retrieved a space capsule last week. Surely you can figure out this whole selling-beer-from-a-restaurant-with-wheels thing.

The editorial goes on to wrap together safety concerns—who will keep an eye on those taco-eating drunks without liquor control board-supervised training in the "50 signs of visible intoxication"?—with concerns about fairness to existing bricks-and-mortar businesses—"restaurants could gripe, quite legitimately, that the carts are undermining their businesses"—into one big juicy bullshit burrito.

Let's sing it one more time: Restaurant licenses (and/or liquor licenses) do not come with a guarantee of protection from competition. Nor should they. If a taco truck with a keg in it is killing your business, it sucks to be you. Time to step up your game, or get your own truck.

Via my favorite slightly soused Portlander Jacob Grier.