Portland-area food cart owners are innovative, creative, and continue to contribute to Portland’s food and beverage culture. The range of food options varies greatly, but it is easy to find what you are looking for, or get updated on the recent cart happenings, with the likes of Food Carts Portland. Portland’s food cart culture has even been featured in Sunset Magazine and the New York Times.

Recently food cart owners have been exploring the possibility of serving alcoholic beverages to complement your burrito, panuchos, grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich, falafel, or whatever else you may be enjoying. A limited few are already serving up beer and wine. For example, Pizza Depokos at North Station has a limited on-premises license to serve beer and wine, and Captured by Porches Brewing Co. appears to be serving beer out of a mobile bus under its existing brewery license, as described in an OregonLive.com article.  However, whether we will see more food carts serving up beer or wine depends on whether a cart owner can convince the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) that it qualifies for a license under the current regulatory scheme. 

The first, and probably biggest, hurdle a food cart owner has is the issue of defining the licensed premises. State law prohibits the OLCC from issuing a license to a location that does not have defined boundaries. While a licensed premises does not need to be enclosed by a wall, fence or other structure, it must have defined boundaries that are discernable. Further, state law prohibits the OLCC from licensing premises that are “mobile” unless the premises is a licensed public passenger carrier (like an airline, a railroad, or a tour boat operator). What constitutes “mobile” is up for interpretation at this point and may likely be the subject of the OLCC’s upcoming request to the Oregon Attorney General for an opinion.


Other likely licensing issues include, but of course are not limited to, minor posting, premises control, and local endorsement. These issues exist whether a food cart owner pursues a limited on-premises license, a temporary sales license, or some other privilege like a second or temporary location under another license type (i.e., brewery or winery license). In addition to these license-specific issues that an applicant must address, food cart owners must also be aware of the potential for increased site liability as well as increased regulatory scrutiny through the local endorsement process, which will trigger a compliance review of all applicable zoning, building, and health codes.