The coffee cart connection 

Oh, proud to be an American where feet are for working the gas pedal, and we’re free to order double-short dry cappuccinos from the safety and comfort of our bucket seats. In Missoula, drive-thru espresso houses have a loyal following. Eleven years ago, Marilyn Murphy opened up the first free-standing espresso house in town. Now, the little red house with sage trim is for sale. It’s not the only one.

“I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of ads in the paper,” she says. The Health Department sent a letter out to free-standing units, including espresso drive-thrus, on Dec. 3. The letter asked the businesses to either connect to city water and sewer or become fully mobile by the end of 2004. The rules aren’t new—they’re just being enforced. Nonetheless, Murphy followed the rules the city gave her when she first opened the business, and now she’s irked.

“Eleven years late, they decide they weren’t following their own rules,” says Murphy. She was already trying to sell the business, and the requirement may make the sale more difficult.

Claudia Wevers owns Rocky Mountain Espresso, which sits on the parking lot of the Orange Street Food Farm. She knows that rumors about the espresso houses are flying; the grapevine is a live wire. She isn’t convinced that it’s a newspaper on the line. “You sound like you’re from another coffee shop trying to get information out of me,” she says.

She shares information despite her suspicion. It isn’t every landlord who is willing to allow a tenant to rip up the asphalt, she explains, and it isn’t every business that can afford to do so.

“It’s going to very hard for some people,” she says.

But Wevers will connect. “I’m personally going to bite the bullet and do this work,” she says. She’s tired of the manual labor. “It isn’t fun packing that water and emptying those holding tanks.”

Employees would agree.

Tassi Morton works for Wevers, and she hauls the half-keggers, too. She says that workers are happy about the rule enforcement.

She hands over a cappuccino: “It’s just easier on the back.”

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