Whether food carts can serve Hefeweizen with their hot dogs first came up two years ago, when carts asked the OLCC about regularly selling beer and wine. Temporary licenses, say for festivals, are available under separate rules. The OLCC said it would look into logistics, including asking the attorney general's office for an opinion. Then around last fall -- the OLCC wouldn't give a date -- the office said the OLCC can't deny an annual license to a food vendor just because it's a cart....This raises all kinds of questions, many of them economic and social (purview of different sorts of bloggers). But what it raised in my mind was this: for once, I can envision a viable nanobrewing business model. It's possible to buy a brand-new one-barrel brewery for about three grand (right here in Portland, as it turns out), and it looks like you could probably cobble together a decent food cart for another ten.
Carts are eligible for licenses as long as they stay in one spot and owners show they can control the area where alcohol is consumed. Carts along sidewalks could be limited to closed containers. Though Cartlandia seeks permission to sell only beer and wine, carts could also seek full liquor licenses.
Fifteen thousand dollars is super rock bottom cheap to get a brewery off the ground. It wouldn't get you very far off the ground, either. You'd be working like a dog all the time and you would have a pretty low growth ceiling. On the other hand, there's no reason to think you couldn't sell a couple hundred barrels or more from the cart, and maybe even a few more barrels to area pubs.
If it turns out that the city and state will allow food carts to sell beer, I can't imagine some enterprising young brewer wouldn't take a gamble. Who will be the first?
Crudely photoshopped picture modified from an original by Yelp user Athena T.