AS DOOMSDAY SCENARIOS go, the presumed pandemonium that was supposed to erupt after a SE Portland food cart pod earned a liquor license—Oregon's first!—has been a little disappointing.
On a recent weekday afternoon down at Cartlandia, the growing pod that draws families and Springwater Corridor bike commuters to an otherwise dismal part of SE 82nd Avenue, only one lunchtime customer was drinking any suds in the pod's beer garden—a Ninkasi, poured into a red plastic cup. And on weekends, says pod owner Roger Goldingay, the place is more likely to be overrun with kids than drinking customers.
This is far from the terrifying visions of drunkenness that city commissioners fretted over this spring when begging the OLCC not to approve Goldingay's license. And it's clearly unlike what city officials complained about in court papers this May when they sued the state, demanding it stop giving liquor licenses to food carts.
"It's funny," Goldingay said. "It's pretty funny to see the crowd that's here compared to the crowd the city council thinks is here."
This is exactly what we thought it would be like."
Pretty soon, the Mercury has learned—no doubt further stressing Portland officials fuming over the improbable prospect of carts all over town suddenly slinging booze—it looks like Cartlandia might finally have some company.
Five other carts or cart-like businesses have submitted applications for liquor licenses, says OLCC spokeswoman Christie Scott. Two of those applicants—Boogie Burger and Divine Café—could have their requests heard by the OLCC as soon as October.That's about the number food cart advocates expected might apply back when Cartlandia won its license in March—and a far cry from the "695 new neighborhood" licenses Mayor Sam Adams wrung his hands over.
"We have the legal authority to approve them," Scott says. "The suit doesn't preclude us from following the law."
To win approval, each cart has to meet some fairly stringent rules. They won't be able to serve alcohol all night. They'll have to cordon off a beer garden and pay monitors to make sure no one underage gets in. Moreover, some carts in Portland, through technical loopholes like "special event" permits, have already been selling alcohol for years.
Portland's lawsuit—part of a larger fight with the OLCC over its ability to crack down on problem drinking establishments—argues that the OLCC's guidelines still aren't strict enough and that licensing carts will spur an explosion of public intoxication and crime.
Goldingay says he'd be surprised if too many more carts tried to apply. He jokes about his refusal to serve too many cheap beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and that the booze is mostly there to draw customers to the carts.
"We're barely covering the overhead," he says.
Goldingay's wife, Carol Otis, wrote the Mercury to note she'd invited the city council's most vocal temperance advocate, Amanda Fritz, to the pod so she could see what it's really like. She says Fritz, running for re-election in November, told her she wouldn't be free until after Election Day.
As of press time, Fritz's office had yet to confirm the offer.