Town draws liquor authority into disputes with local establishments

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06/16/2011 8:03 AM |


For the first time ever, the town has enlisted the help of the State Liquor Authority in addressing code enforcement issues, such as amplified music neighbors find objectionable, at several local businesses, including a winery.

The town routinely receives notices of local applications for new and renewal liquor licenses — and routinely offers no comment. But that changed when the town filed objections against the The Blue Inn in East Marion (formerly the Blue Dolphin), the Orient Inn bed and breakfast and Croteaux Vineyards in Southold.

The Blue Inn, the source of many noise complaints over several years, has changed hands and the new owners have yet to reopen it.

“The town wants to ensure that the new owner operates the facility within the scope of what is allowed under zoning,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “Once bitten twice shy, as they say.”

In a March 15 letter to the SLA, Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said that under state law, the inn’s bar could remain open until 4 a.m.

“A commercial/retail establishment that is open seven days a week until 4 a.m. is inappropriate in this area and greatly concerns the town,” the attorney wrote.

Accompanying the letter was an analysis of calls to the police concerning the inn from May 2006 to November 2009. Most are “complaint of loud music.”

In one case, a complaint came in at 1:22 a.m. regarding noise from a wedding, with a notation that the then-owner had turned the volume down. Shortly after that, according to the report, “complaint that when officer left, band turned music louder at 1:50.”

The inn has a new owner, Sam Glass, who also owns the Ocean Resort Inn in Montauk. He paid just over $2 million for the property, now undergoing renovation, over the winter. Mr. Finnegan said he’s spoken with Mr. Glass, who has expressed a willingness to avoid the inn’s previous run-ins with police and neighbors.

“He’s trying to work it all out,” the town attorney said.

Mr. Glass said he was surprised to learn of the inn’s recent history.

“We didn’t know we had a problem until we purchased it,” he said. “We’re not going to operate that way.”

He said there will be no amplified music after 9 p.m. “I’m looking to attract middle-aged people who want to go to sleep at 11 or 12.”

Southold is currently the only township in Suffolk County without a noise ordinance, although the Town Board is working on one.

Mr. Glass said he has no objection to a noise code, except “if they make it too onerous people won’t go out there. Either you want to attract tourists or you don’t.”

The inn could reopen in a couple of weeks, initially without a liquor license.

“The sooner we get it the better,” said Mr. Glass. “It’s a necessity.”

The town’s objections in April to Croteaux Vineyard’s farm winery license failed and the renewal was issued in May, said co-owner Michael Croteaux.

“If there’s an objection letter, I’ve never seen one,” he said. “As far as I know, we’re in compliance and the town hasn’t notified us differently.”

In a letter to the SLA regarding Croteaux Vineyards, Mr. Finnegan says the winery is operating without the required site plan approval, does not have the necessary certificate of occupancy and that the only approved use for the property is as a single-family home.

Mr. Croteaux counters that he has COs for his agricultural buildings, which state law says can be used in wine production. He adds that he previously filed a site plan application with the Planning Board “and have heard nothing from them.”

With regard to the Orient Inn, the town told the SLA that its B&B code prohibits the sale of alcohol.

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