Judge upholds restraining order banning Vineyard 48 dance parties

A screen shot from a YouTube video promoting Vineyard 48’s planned lineup of DJ’s for the summer.

A state Supreme Court justice has denied Vineyard 48’s bid to lift the temporary restraining order imposed in May prohibiting DJ dance parties that some neighbors found objectionable. And while the vineyard no longer holds such weekend gatherings, the town continues to issue summonses charging that the Cutchogue business is operating without required special events permits.

The restraining order, issued by Judge Joseph Pas­toressa on May 24, is expected to remain in place past Labor Day, and perhaps further into the fall. During a July 12 court appearance, Vineyard 48 was unsuccessful in getting the order lifted.

Vineyard 48 wants to make peace with the town, its attorney said this week.

“Vineyard 48 wants very much to be a community member that is respected and viewed as making a contribution to business and cultural life in Southold,” said Peter Sullivan of the Sullivan Gardner firm in New York.

With no further court dates scheduled until Sept. 5, two days after Labor Day, the town and the vineyard began discussions “to come to an accommodation so that the town perceives us as a good citizen,” Mr. Sullivan added. “We will do and spend anything reasonable to make sure that we come to a good faith, fair agreement with the town.”

Offering a less sanguine outlook on the case, Riverhead attorney Frank Isler, who represents the town, said Southold is still pressing the court to impose a preliminary injunction, which would keep the temporary restrictions on the vineyard in place until the case is resolved.

“The town questions whether what they were doing, which looks more like a club than a vineyard, is a permitted use under zoning,” said Mr. Isler.

The vineyard came under intense scrutiny earlier this year when, for the second year in a row, it advertised weekend DJ dance parties held under a large tent. Videos posted on the Vineyard 48 website proclaimed, “If you thought 2011 was fun, wait until you see what we have in store for you in 2012.” In another post, the DJ said, “Get ready for the most explosive season yet.”

Residents from a half-mile away complained that they could actually feel the music in their homes. Others said partygoers under the influence have wandered into their yards and some have had sex in the open.

Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela said the vineyard’s operations gave the wine industry “a black eye.”

Vineyard 48 has twice filed special permit applications with Southold’s Zoning Board of Appeals and been turned down both times. The town has said that in applying for permits for multiple weekends the vineyard is essentially admitting that the gatherings are not special and reflect a business model not permitted under the code.

Since the restraining order took effect, the vineyard put tables and chairs in the space previously set aside for dancing and now advertises DJ wine tastings.

Since May, town police have served the vineyard’s management with numerous tickets, including citations for noise ordinance infractions. Most, however, involve the lack of a special event permit. The town claims the vineyard’s gatherings bring in crowds far exceeding established occupancy limits.

The vineyard disagrees.

In recent weeks the noise has not appeared to be excessive, said Police Chief Martin Flatley.

“We’ve had complaints, but they weren’t verified by the officer responding,” he said.

The many summonses issued for failure to obtain a special use permit indicate that the business is not complying with the restraining order, said Supervisor Scott Russell.

“If they’re not honoring zoning and the [restraining order] and we have to issue summonses each week, those are the facts the court will sit in judgment on in September,” he said.

“We’re not looking to write summonses, we’re trying to allow businesses to prosper,” the supervisor added. “But when things go above and beyond what zoning or the restraining order allow, then we have no choice.”

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