Editorial: Two industries go hand-in-hand

A frequent question posed to wine tasting servers at North Fork wineries rarely has anything to do with wine.

What patrons often want to know, especially those visiting from up-island, is which local restaurant the server would recommend. In some ways, the wine servers become de facto food critics.

The link between local restaurants and wineries is a key point in the debate about whether food trucks should be allowed at wineries in Southold Town. This debate between wineries and restaurants is hardly new — food trucks are merely the latest wrinkle. Code enforcement officers began issuing summonses two weekends ago and Southold Town attorney William Duffy noted the citations were for having a “non-permitted use” and a “violation of site plan.”

According to town code, food trucks are not allowed in Agricultural Residential zones. At a special Town Board meeting in June, Councilman Bill Ruland noted there had been several complaints from deli and restaurant owners that food trucks were creating an uneven playing field.

But is that the reality? Are people skipping local restaurants now because at a handful of wineries they can grab a quick bite from a food truck?

It’s worth remembering just how much the wine and food industries go hand-in-hand on the North Fork. During the summer and fall, tourists plan trips here centered on great wine and food. The wineries often provide a boost for nearby restaurants as servers direct patrons to different spots.

The restaurant industry should take a stand to support wineries who wish to bring in a food truck.

By the letter of the law, food trucks are not necessarily prohibited, they are merely not listed as a permitted use, and therefore not allowed, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell had previously explained. Mr. Russell has noted that food trucks are allowed in the town in certain zones that permit them to operate like a deli or restaurant. It’s not a question of wineries, he has said, but about food trucks and zoning.

Code changes can be updated simply enough, although Mr. Russell has cautioned against changing codes “with the tides.” The question now is: Are people willing to support food trucks as a permitted use?

We think so, and with the support of local restaurants, that change could happen sooner rather than later.

Wineries cannot function like restaurants, on that much everyone can agree. But for a few wineries to bring in a food truck, expanding its offerings beyond the standard cheese platter, hardly seems like the slippery slope that endangers Southold’s rural integrity.