No. 2 Top News Story: Vineyard 48 and winery regulations

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.