Park wine, food fest debated

There would be no free public access to Greenport’s Mitchell Park on June 27 if the Village Board permits the Long Island Wine Council to stage a $40 per ticket wine and food tasting event there.

What’s the difference between a man walking through Greenport’s Mitchell Park drinking a beer obscured by a paper bag and a park visitor drinking wine?

The former will be ticketed for violating the village’s open container law while the latter may be a welcome guest if the Village Board approves the Long Island Wine Council’s plan for a one-day food and wine sampling event there on Sunday, June 27.

As for that pesky open container law, the village has ignored it during the annual Maritime Festival, when visitors stroll the streets with plastic glasses and bottles of beer and other alcoholic beverages in hand.

Village Board members Monday night appeared ready to embrace the Wine Council’s event as way to draw people to Greenport’s restaurants and stores. Trustee Michael Osinski said BID members have been looking for events to hold in May and June to attract visitors at a time when seasonal business is still lagging.

“I think we want to jump on it,” he said about the wine council event.

But before the Village Board acts, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said, the mass assembly permit application is “sketchy” and needs to be fleshed out before Monday night’s vote.

Not everyone thinks the idea is a good one. From the audience, former trustee David Corwin advised board members to think twice before voting to give the Long Island Wine Council a mass assembly permit. Another former trustee in the audience, Bill Swiskey, jokingly asked if he could use the park to hold a keg party.

What Village Board members hope is that the event would attract visitors who’d stay at local hotels and B&Bs, eat in local restaurants and patronize local merchants.

Mr. Corwin and Mr. Swiskey said they fear people will come for the day, get all the wine and food they want and never visit local businesses. Trustee Chris Kempner expressed concern about people drinking all afternoon and then driving.

The proposed event would cap a three-day wine council program that will begin on Friday, June 25, with a reception for press and dignitaries at a vineyard yet to be named. On Saturday, June 26, vineyard owners, restaurateurs and merchants will offer all kinds of special programs to move visitors around the North Fork, according to the council’s plans.

The Sunday event in Mitchell Park would cost participants $40 to sample wines and foods from participating vineyards, restaurants and caterers.

“We think it would be a great space for that,” wine council executive director Steven Bate told the Village Board Monday.

Because it was built with public money, Mitchell Park is intended first and foremost for residents, so the initial question was just how much of the park the wine council would want to use that day. Most of it, Mr. Bate said.

Wine council treasurer Jim Waters said he hoped local businesses would run specials to attract customers. Organizers are speaking with Hampton Jitney and the Long Island Rail Road about providing transportation in and out of Greenport, he added. Many visitors would be staying at local hotels and B&Bs until Monday, he said, brushing aside the suggestion that people would be drinking and driving.

Mr. Waters promised that the wine council would provide security coordinated with the Southold Police and handle trash, collecting it in one area so village workers could remove it without having to do a village-wide cleanup. He also promised the event would be promoted through newspapers, the wine council website and e-mail blasts.

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