Judge: Vineyard 48 can keep its liquor license

Vineyard 48. (Credit: file photo)
Vineyard 48. (Credit: file photo)

A New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled that Vineyard 48, which residents have described as more of a dance club than a tasting room, may keep its liquor license. And Southold Town officials are already planning to appeal that decision.  

The ruling, handed down Nov. 5 by state Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan, called the New York State Liquor Authority’s decision to revoke Vineyard 48’s license last December “unnecessarily harsh, shockingly disproportionate to the offenses,” according to court documents.

Officials in Southold Town, which has also taken legal action against the Cutchogue vineyard, citing violations against its previously approved site plan, said they are “outraged” by the court’s decision and plan to appeal the ruling.

“We are outraged that a sitting judge of New York State, who we assume has never been to Southold, could deliver such a decision,” Supervisor Scott Russell said in an email Tuesday night. “We believe that the decision is not supported by the facts of the case or the law. We look forward to the decision being overturned on appeal.”

Vineyard 48 has been no stranger to controversy.

The SLA began investigating the vineyard in May 2013 after nearby residents complained that the winery was being run like a nightclub and was disrupting their quality of life.

The vineyard owners stood accused of violating eight alcoholic beverage control laws, including engaging in improper conduct by operating as a nightclub, using a DJ and permitting a dance party-type atmosphere and creating or permitting conditions that adversely affected the health, welfare and safety of the community, according to court documents.

However, the Nov. 5 decision states that because the SLA does not currently provide a definition of what constitutes a legally acceptable wine tasting, Vineyard 48 was not in violation of alcoholic beverage laws.

Without clear definitions, the judge dismissed claims that dancing on the premises and the operation of the winery’s cigar shop are illegal.

Peter Sullivan, attorney for the vineyard owners, said Wednesday he hoped the judge’s decision motivates the SLA to outline comprehensive regulations for wineries that will give them the clear ability to provide entertainment to draw in customers.

“The state and the SLA need to take the time to figure out how we are going to protect the wine industry on the North Fork,” Mr. Sullivan said. “In order accomplish that, there needs to be comprehensive regulations developed and, of course, enforcement of those regulations.”

Mr. Sullivan said he stands by the judge’s ruling and looks forward to resolving any further legal matters with the Town of Southold.

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