Southold Town says food trucks at wineries not a permitted use

The Southold Town Board has officially notified local wineries that food trucks are not a permitted use within the town code. Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell and Councilman Bill Ruland, member of the Agricultural Advisory Committee, met with local winery representatives at an informal meeting June 1.

According to town code, food trucks are not allowed in agricultural residential zones.

“[Food truck] popularity is growing and we are seeing them in more and more locations,” Mr. Russell said. “The board agreed that we needed to get out and remind people that they are prohibited by code in those zones.”

He said they discussed the code and told them the town’s plan of action was to individually get the word out and look for compliance. If locations were still found not in compliance, Mr. Russell said the town would issue a notice of violation.

“Basically what we were talking about was … that retailing, whether it’s food trucks, jewelry trucks, pocketbook trucks, anything that people can think of, aren’t allowed to sell in R and AC zones,” Mr. Ruland said. “There is nothing in the code that prohibits them from serving food, they’re just not allowed to charge for it. Which is a sticking point for them.”

Mr. Ruland confirmed that all wineries that have a food truck on site were visited and told the trucks were not allowed, but no citations were given out yet.

He added that there were several complaints from deli and restaurant owners that the food trucks created an uneven playing field.

When asked why some winery owners might feel they are being unfairly targeted by the town, Mr. Ruland said, “The only reason they may feel that way is that the majority of food trucks showed up at wineries. Food trucks can show up at other events and meet with the same visit from code enforcement.”

Those with peddler’s licenses will not be affected by this crackdown because they are permitted to travel to different locations to sell things, but cannot stay in one location for longer than 15 minutes.

At a special town board meeting last Wednesday, winery owners spoke during the public session, which Mr. Ruland described as “heated.”

“There are certain winery licenses that are required to provide some kind of food if they’re going to pour by the glass,” said Steve Bate, acting Long Island Wine Council director. He was also present at the meeting. “That’s what we call conflicting requirements. We hope we can work something out with the town and work on a longer term solution in terms of permitted uses at wineries.”

“Wineries [used to] serve crackers and cheese as the sponge for the alcohol and it’s morphed into something far different today,” Mr. Ruland said.

At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, Mr. Bate asked to relaunch the discussion. He called the issue a “gray area around the permitted uses at wineries.”

Councilman Bob Ghosio said he does not see it as a winery issue.

“It’s a food truck issue,” he said. “It’s not a permitted use.”

Wine council board member Sal Dilberto asked where in the code are food trucks prohibited. The code prohibits retailing in the R-80 and the agricultural zones, the supervisor said. If it’s not a permitted use in the code, it’s not allowed, he said. Wineries are specifically allowed to sell their product in those zones, town attorney Bill Duffy said.

“It would be helpful to flesh some of this stuff out and have it more clear,” Mr. Bate said, addressing the Town Board again.

Mr. Bate later asked if violations are going to be issued, who gets them — the food truck or the winery that’s allowing it to be there?

“It could be both,” the town attorney said.

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