07/19/15 4:22pm

TR0723_Fatal4_vc

They were all 23 and 24 years old, their whole lives seemingly ahead of them.

They were visiting the North Fork to celebrate a major event in one of their friend’s lives.

Then, as the driver of the limousine they had booked to help keep them safe during a trip to local wineries attempted to make a U-turn on Route 48 and Depot Lane in Cutchogue, the lives of the four friends came to a tragic end Saturday.  READ

07/19/15 9:14am

TR0723_Fatal4_vc

They were all 23 and 24 years old, their whole lives seemingly ahead of them.

They were visiting the North Fork to celebrate a major event in one of their friend’s lives.

Then, as the driver of the limousine they had booked to help keep them safe during a trip to local wineries attempted to make a U-turn on Route 48 and Depot Lane in Cutchogue, the lives of the four friends came to a tragic end Saturday.  READ

05/28/14 12:00pm
05/28/2014 12:00 PM
Vineyard 48. (Credit: file photo)

A judge ruled in favor of Vineyard 48. (Credit: file photo)

A state Supreme Court judge has tossed claims brought against Vineyard 48 by the New York State Liquor Authority, which was seeking to a reverse a decision that allows the Cutchogue winery to remain open as its legal matters are sorted out.  (more…)

01/09/14 2:37pm
01/09/2014 2:37 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO

Vineyard 48 was given another extension on a stay to keep a temporary liquor license on Thursday, while the Cutchogue winery appeals a New York State Liquor Authority ruling in December that had pulled its license.

Peter Sullivan, attorney for the vineyard owner, said on Thursday that the temporary stay is good until Jan. 21, when he is due back in court. The winery had previously obtained a stay in late December until Thursday.

Mr. Sullivan said that the revocation, issued by the SLA in New York City on Dec. 17, is unwarranted on the grounds that testimony at the SLA hearing was largely over a year old, and conditions at the vineyard have improved as of late.

“First, these complaints are over a year old. That is very significant,” he said. “Second, essentially this is a noise case — notwithstanding the events that allegedly occurred a year or two ago which were not related to noise.”

Debate over activities taking place at the vineyard is nothing new.

In April, the State Liquor Authority began investigating the winery after a long list of residents complained of loud music and other disturbances.

Southold Town has also taken legal action against the vineyard, citing violations against its previously approved site plan, including exceeding maximum occupancy. In addition, the town passed parking restrictions in August on Route 48 near the vineyard.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said he had not heard the news yet as of early Thursday afternoon. However he said he expected delays in the process after the SLA revoked Vineyard 48’s license.

“We know this is built into the system. Sometimes the only way to do police work is to do your end of the work and push through as best you can until the end, and wait until it gets to the end,” he said. “We didn’t think it would be resolved yet.”

While he admitted that operations at the vineyard have improved over the last year — violations have not been as flagrant as they were in 2011 or 2012, he said — “there were still calls there,” he said.

12/31/13 9:00am
12/31/2013 9:00 AM
FILE PHOTO | Vineyard 48

FILE PHOTO | Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue.

Update: Vineyard 48 back in business as it appeals SLA license revocation

After years of complaints from local residents, a back-and-forth with town leaders and even a lawsuit submitted against it on the town’s behalf, controversial Vineyard 48 had its liquor license revoked by the State Liquor Authority in December.

The ruling came as a relief to town officials, police and, perhaps most of all, neighbors of the Cutchogue winery who have long complained about a host of concerns, including loud music and patrons allegedly having sex in public on private property.

In response to those claims, the town put activities at all local wineries under the microscope. However, the Southold Town Board’s attempt to pass two separate pieces of legislation concerning the use of wineries has proven a tricky task.

After years of fine-tuning, the town adopted its controversial special events law this year, but the issue became muddied by a separate proposed policy to change the town’s legal definition of permitted winery uses.

In November the Planning Board requested that the Zoning Board of Appeals evaluate what constitutes a winery, including whether a “dance and/or social club” was permissible in a tasting room and whether a retail cigar shop was an acceptable accessory use at a vineyard, ZBA chair Leslie Weisman said.
Both those activities had become common practice at Vineyard 48, according to the ZBA, prompting investigations by both the town and the State Liquor Authority.

Vineyard 48 owner Matthew Metz has refuted all accusations against the vineyard and called the town a “bully,” saying it is unfairly targeting his business.

Shortly before the winery lost its liquor license Dec. 18, Mr. Metz filed suit against the town to defend his business, Supervisor Scott Russell said.

As the legal battle continues, the town’s attempt to hone its definition of a winery will have to wait until 2014.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/30/13 4:19pm
12/30/2013 4:19 PM
GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO

Less than two weeks after the New York State Liquor Authority revoked the liquor license for Vineyard 48, the Cutchogue winery is back open for business while it appeals the ruling in state court.

According to Southold Town attorney Martin Finnegan, the winery received temporary stay from the SLA revocation as a New York State Supreme Court considers whether or not the previous ruling by the state authority is legal.

The current stay is good until Jan. 9, he said, when the vineyard is due back in court.

“We anticipated this was coming at some point,” said Mr. Finnegan.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley confirmed the decision as well, though he and Mr. Finnegan both noted that the issues at hand are technically not between the town and Vineyard 48, but rather the SLA and Vineyard 48.

On Dec. 17, the SLA board sustained six of eight charges brought against the embattled vineyard, which has drawn the ire of neighbors for years.

Nearby residents have testified that they’ve witnessed lewd acts in public, dealt with overwhelming traffic coming in and out of the vineyard, and heard more than their fair share of loud music coming from the winery.

A manager on site at Vineyard 48 did not return a request for comment, and a call to Vineyard 48 attorney Pat Moore was not returned on Monday. A spokesman for the SLA also did not return a call seeking comment on Monday.

Chief Flatley, who testified at the Dec. 17 SLA hearing in New York City, said that the winery had previously been offered a deal that would have resulted in a fine and a liquor suspension. That offer was denied, he said, as the owners opted to go to a hearing.

After listening to testimony at the hearing, SLA Chair Dennis Rosen said that “I think there is a point where one can distinguish between a winery running legitimate operations … and turning into this kind of a nightclub atmosphere that is clearly detrimental to the community.”

While the winery is back in business — its Facebook page advertised its “victory in court” on Monday — the vineyard will still need to meet new compliances as required through a recent site plan approval from the town Planning Board.

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12/17/13 5:00pm

vineyard48

After years of complaints from local residents, a back-and-forth with town leaders and even a lawsuit submitted against it on the town’s behalf, Vineyard 48 had its liquor license revoked by the State Liquor Authority on Tuesday.

The embattled location was one of over 100 sites on Tuesday’s SLA meeting agenda, and SLA spokesman Bill Crowley confirmed that the Cutchogue winery did not earn a favorable ruling, but said he was unable to immediately provide additional information.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley, along with four neighbors of Vineyard 48, testified before the SLA Board during its meeting at the authority’s office in Harlem Tuesday.

Mr. Flatley said there had been an offer on the table before the hearings began earlier this year that would have had Vineyard 48’s license temporarily suspended in addition to a monetary fine.

Vineyard 48 turned down that offer in favor of a full hearing, he said.

Chief Flatley said he was surprised the SLA revoked Vineyard 48’s license outright, adding that other hearings before the board on Tuesday resulted in fines or suspensions.

“I’m satisfied, definitely,” he said. “I know the neighbors are happy.”

After much discussion over Vineyard 48 in recent months, Supervisor Scott Russell said that he’s sure neighbors won’t have to take to town hall again to complain over similar circumstances.

“It is our sincere belief that we’re not going to let this happen again,” the supervisor said.

An employee at the vineyard declined to comment on the issue on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s news was the second blow to Vineyard 48 in as many days — though Monday’s news could now be considered moot.

On Monday, Vineyard 48 was granted Planning Board approval for an amended site plan after months of debate, though the winery must meet an extensive set of conditions starting immediately — including measures to limit noise levels and overcrowding — in order to comply with the approval.

In addition, according to a resolution adopted by Planning Board members Monday, the winery’s March request for a 40-by-100 foot outdoor pavilion, as well as the creation of an overflow parking lot with 100 additional spaces, have both been refused.

According to Planning Department director Heather Lanza, the conditions were laid out “in an effort to ensure that the site is operated safely, and at a level that is compatible with the neighboring residences.”

The Planning Board’s adopted resolution, which went into effect Tuesday, states that the winery must cease operations at its standalone cigar store, per a November decision from the Zoning Board of Appeals; the town hired special counsel on Tuesday to defend itself on the merits of that decision.

Additionally, all vehicles — including buses and limousines — are now required to remain on-site with passengers. Instead of a parking lot with 100 spaces, the winery will get 35 spots: 23 standard spaces, six spaces for stretch limos and six more for buses.

Ms. Lanza said in phone conversation on Tuesday that the approval “was almost like a denial, but it wasn’t because we wanted to make some headway on the whole thing. We didn’t want to be left nowhere.” Despite the conditions the vineyard must meet, Ms. Lanza said the planning board did grant the applicant the limo and bus parking spaces.

Debate over activities taking place at the vineyard is nothing new.

In April, the State Liquor Authority began investigating the winery after a long list of residents complained of loud music and other disturbances.

Southold Town has also taken legal action against the vineyard, citing violations against its previously approved site plan, including exceeding maximum occupancy. In addition, the town passed parking restrictions in August on Route 48 near the vineyard.

And while the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals has been asked to look into the definition of  a “winery’” this year, no mention of Vineyard 48 specifically has been central to the conversation. Though a request to determine whether a “dance or social club” and a retail cigar shop were permissible seemed to be specific to the vineyard, even according to Vineyard 48 attorney Patricia Moore of Southold.

Two public hearings regarding the winery’s amended site plan were well-attended this summer by Cutchogue residents, many of whom told the planning board the loud music and lewd behavior of the winery’s patrons is destroying their quality of life.

Vineyard 48 owner Matthew Metz has refuted those accusations and called the town a “bully,” saying his business is being unfairly targeted by the town.

During a Dec. 2 Planning Board work session, Ms. Moore — who did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday — expressed her frustration with the town, noting that personnel changes at the vineyard have improved the state of affairs, and have not been taken into account by town leaders.

“You know from observing this year’s management style that my client has new management,” Ms. Moore said earlier this month. “He’s been very active in trying to control everything, and quite frankly, it feels like every time we try to come in [here] in good faith to resolve the problems of the past, they’re being rehashed.”

While Monday’s resolution takes effect Tuesday, Ms. Lanza said the vineyard would be given some leeway to comply with the new conditions.

“Typically in any enforcement action, the landowner is given time to rectify the situation before an actual code violation is issued,” she said via email. “In other words, they would get a warning first if they are doing something that isn’t complying with the conditions.”

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