JUNCTION CITY, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Justice is looking to change up the food cart business in Portland, and those changes could also affect Lane County carts.
Lane County is home to almost 200 food carts and new rules are on the horizon that could make it so these restaurants on wheels could not only serve food, but liquor too.
Carts are now being considered restaurants, which means they can apply for a liquor license if they so choose. It’s a nerve-racking idea for some.
“I think the concern of the public is, are we just going to have a cart running around the city slingin’ alcohol, but that’s not the case,” said Mark Jaehnig from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Portland city officials are on-edge over the idea because their nearly 700 carts do a lot of late-night business, in cases where customers have already downed a few drinks.
But most Lane County carts are mainly serving customers a quick lunchbreak bite, and during the day most people are going to reach for a Diet Coke over a Dead Guy Ale.
“We would probably sell a lot more beer if we stayed open all the time,” said part-owner Junkyard Dogs Craig Zumwalt.
Craig and Kim own Junkyard Dogs in Junction City, and while they are a food cart, they are also registered as a restaurant and already have their liquor license.
“A lot of people, mostly in the summertime, they’re always going, man I wish you had a beer, and we’re like, well why can’t we?” Zumwalt said.
So Zumwalt applied. Both OLCC and state officials looked the place over, outlined boundaries where customers could drink, issued them their liquor license and Junkyard Dogs added a few beers to the menu.
“It’s been definitely a nice additive. Whether you have a big day selling beer or not is irrelevant. At least you have it and people know you have it,” Zumwalt said.
Zumwalt says it doesn’t necessarily bring in the big bucks, but it’s worth the trouble if you have the right customer set-up.
“You know you have to have something for them to sit out underneath, and you have to have tables and stuff and everything like that,” Zumwalt said.
OLCC says they’ll do their part to regulate carts selling cocktails and as long as things stay under control, they love the idea.
“Anytime that there is a business idea that involves the responsible selling of alcohol, we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that those places succeed,” Jaehnig said.
Zumwalt says the next step in their business plan to bring Junkyard Dogs to Eugene.