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Top Stories 2016: Southold Town and the beverage industry

Scott Russell

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell made waves in late November when he proposed a temporary moratorium on new winery, brewery and distillery applications, saying the town needs time to revamp the “sparse” codes it has for regulating the industries. It was one of several times this year that the town and local wineries failed to see eye to eye.

Mr. Russell said the town’s existing code from the 1970s and ’80s is “very insufficient,” adding that it lacks definitions for tasting rooms and agricultural retail uses.

In addition to revising existing rules, Mr. Russell said, revamping the code would allow the town to add new uses and take a fresh look at land-use requirements in order to better fit the changing industry while minimizing negative impacts such as increased traffic.

The proposal, which was eventually called off, was met with a tepid response from beverage industry professionals, especially the applicants behind proposals currently making their way through the planning process. Other Town Board members have also not yet publicly supported the moratorium idea.

This year also saw the closing of Southold Farm + Cellar, producer of what The New York Times dubbed one “of the most interesting, creative and exciting wines on the North Fork.” The vineyard shuttered after the town Zoning Board of Appeals denied its owners a variance. They later announced plans to relocate to Texas.

The town and the State Liquor Authority also cracked down further on the controversial Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue this year, leading to a suspension of its liquor license and a $10,000 fine in April. The winery has long been the subject of complaints from neighbors about its loud, overcrowded party events.

File photo: Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell defends his moratorium plan during a Mattituck Chamber of Commerce meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)