04/16/14 8:00am
04/16/2014 8:00 AM
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces new reforms to ease restrictions on farm wineries. (Credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces new reforms to ease restrictions on farm wineries. (Credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office)

Local wineries and farm breweries are celebrating recent statewide reforms they say will both reduce the financial burden on the local beverage industry and give them more freedom to sell and distribute their products. (more…)

01/09/14 2:37pm
01/09/2014 2:37 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO

Vineyard 48 was given another extension on a stay to keep a temporary liquor license on Thursday, while the Cutchogue winery appeals a New York State Liquor Authority ruling in December that had pulled its license.

Peter Sullivan, attorney for the vineyard owner, said on Thursday that the temporary stay is good until Jan. 21, when he is due back in court. The winery had previously obtained a stay in late December until Thursday.

Mr. Sullivan said that the revocation, issued by the SLA in New York City on Dec. 17, is unwarranted on the grounds that testimony at the SLA hearing was largely over a year old, and conditions at the vineyard have improved as of late.

“First, these complaints are over a year old. That is very significant,” he said. “Second, essentially this is a noise case — notwithstanding the events that allegedly occurred a year or two ago which were not related to noise.”

Debate over activities taking place at the vineyard is nothing new.

In April, the State Liquor Authority began investigating the winery after a long list of residents complained of loud music and other disturbances.

Southold Town has also taken legal action against the vineyard, citing violations against its previously approved site plan, including exceeding maximum occupancy. In addition, the town passed parking restrictions in August on Route 48 near the vineyard.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said he had not heard the news yet as of early Thursday afternoon. However he said he expected delays in the process after the SLA revoked Vineyard 48’s license.

“We know this is built into the system. Sometimes the only way to do police work is to do your end of the work and push through as best you can until the end, and wait until it gets to the end,” he said. “We didn’t think it would be resolved yet.”

While he admitted that operations at the vineyard have improved over the last year — violations have not been as flagrant as they were in 2011 or 2012, he said — “there were still calls there,” he said.

12/30/13 4:19pm
12/30/2013 4:19 PM
GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO

Less than two weeks after the New York State Liquor Authority revoked the liquor license for Vineyard 48, the Cutchogue winery is back open for business while it appeals the ruling in state court.

According to Southold Town attorney Martin Finnegan, the winery received temporary stay from the SLA revocation as a New York State Supreme Court considers whether or not the previous ruling by the state authority is legal.

The current stay is good until Jan. 9, he said, when the vineyard is due back in court.

“We anticipated this was coming at some point,” said Mr. Finnegan.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley confirmed the decision as well, though he and Mr. Finnegan both noted that the issues at hand are technically not between the town and Vineyard 48, but rather the SLA and Vineyard 48.

On Dec. 17, the SLA board sustained six of eight charges brought against the embattled vineyard, which has drawn the ire of neighbors for years.

Nearby residents have testified that they’ve witnessed lewd acts in public, dealt with overwhelming traffic coming in and out of the vineyard, and heard more than their fair share of loud music coming from the winery.

A manager on site at Vineyard 48 did not return a request for comment, and a call to Vineyard 48 attorney Pat Moore was not returned on Monday. A spokesman for the SLA also did not return a call seeking comment on Monday.

Chief Flatley, who testified at the Dec. 17 SLA hearing in New York City, said that the winery had previously been offered a deal that would have resulted in a fine and a liquor suspension. That offer was denied, he said, as the owners opted to go to a hearing.

After listening to testimony at the hearing, SLA Chair Dennis Rosen said that “I think there is a point where one can distinguish between a winery running legitimate operations … and turning into this kind of a nightclub atmosphere that is clearly detrimental to the community.”

While the winery is back in business — its Facebook page advertised its “victory in court” on Monday — the vineyard will still need to meet new compliances as required through a recent site plan approval from the town Planning Board.

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07/02/13 8:00am
07/02/2013 8:00 AM

CLAIRE LEADEN PHOTO | Vineyard 48 owner Matthew Metz responds to the planning board’s questions Monday evening.

Vineyard 48’s owner and his attorney stood before the Southold Town Planning Board Monday to answer questions regarding the business’ controversial operating practices.

Owner Matthew Metz and attorney Patricia Moore told the board and the dozen local residents in attendance that Vineyard 48 is no different than other North Fork vineyards and has become the target of unfair criticism from the town.

“The Town has become a bully,” Ms. Moore said.

Monday marked the second public hearing on the vineyard’s proposed amended site plan, which would create an overflow lot with 100 additional parking spaces.

The revised plan also includes construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion adjoining the tasting room. The pavilion would provide extra seating and picnic tables, and allow for 276 occupants in addition to the 251 currently permitted.

Residents neighboring Vineyard 48 believe the board should not consider the amended site plan, given that the State Liquor Authority is investigating the business. The SLA began looing into the vineyard in April following a laundry list of complaints, including loud music and patrons allegedly wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

“I don’t understand how doubling the occupancy of this vineyard will make the problem better,” said Horse Shoe Lane resident Denise Lademann.

Last month, a few days after the first public hearing on the issue, Town officials said the winery erected four tents without seeking the required permits — a direct violation of town code.

During the hearing, Ms. Moore responded to the allegations.

“Tent is not the right term, they are canopies,” she said. “Canopies have no sides.” Ms. Moore added that under New York State law the vineyard is within its legal right to place tents or canopies on the premises.

Last month, Town Attorney Martin Finnegan called the placement of the structures a complete disregard of the existing court order and applicable regulations in the town code.

Residents echoed that sentiment Monday.

“It’s easier for them to ask forgiveness than permission,”said Julie Johnson of Horse Shoe Drive.

Despite claims that Vineyard 48 is operating under tighter security and wants to be a good neighbor there has been little change to its controversial operating practices, Horse Shoe Lane resident Bill Shipman said.

“Did you see the pictures from June 3 of people having sex in my neighbor’s yard?” Mr. Shipman asked the board.

“Yes,” board Chairman Donald Wilcenski said.

“Help us,” Mr. Shipman said.

Ms. Moore said the incident was unrelated to the vineyard.

“I know you are tempted to react to [the community’s] pleas,” Ms. Moore said. “The purpose of us going through a site plan review is to address the issues, not rehash the issues.”

After nearly two hours, the board agreed to leave the public record open until July 15.  Emails, letters and calls will be accepted for the record until that date.

The meeting ended with familiar words from the board.

“We hear you,” Mr. Wilcenski said.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Town officials said Vineyard 48 has erected four outdoor tents without applying for permits.

07/01/13 2:00pm
07/01/2013 2:00 PM

The Southold Town planning board is holding a second public hearing on Vineyard 48’s amended site plan tonight.

The site plan presented to planners on March 25 includes a new layout for the existing parking area along with the creation of an overflow lot with 100 additional spaces.

The revised plan also includes construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion adjoining the tasting room. The pavilion would provide extra seating and picnic tables.

The plan comes on the heels of an investigation being conducted the State Liquor Authority. The SLA began looking into Vineyard 48 in April after the business became the source of a long list of complaints, including loud music and patrons allegedly wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

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06/10/13 2:45pm
06/10/2013 2:45 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Town officials said Vineyard 48 has erected four outdoor tents without applying for permits.

No noise complaints were filed, but Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue was slapped with new town code violations over the weekend.

Town officials said the winery erected four tents without seeking the required permits in direct violation of town code.

“From the town’s perspective, they are just completely ignoring the existing court order and the applicable regulations in the town code,” Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said Monday. “The Planning Board is very concerned over how Vineyard 48 intends to use the property.”

The vineyard has been the subject of ongoing legal battles over the past several years. On another front, the State Liquor Authority began investigating the vineyard in April after the business became the source of a laundry list of complaints, including loud music and patrons wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

In March the vineyard filed an amended site plan with the Planning Board. The proposal includes construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion with two walls. The pavilion is designed as a permanent structure that would replace the temporary tents the vineyard put up in recent years. The pavilion would provide extra seating and picnic tables and allow 276 occupants in addition to the 251 currently permitted.

“The town is taking the position that tent permits are not issued while a site plan application is pending and the Planning Board has made it very clear that it does not want any tents put up,” Mr. Finnegan.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | The vineyard served up pitches of sangria and beer in addition to bottles of wine and its tasting menu on Saturday.

The tents are not the only  violation, according to Mr. Finnegan.

Through its litigation against the vineyard, which the town claims is a nightclub business that’s not permitted by the Agriculture-Conservation Zone, the State Supreme Court has issued two temporary restraining orders against the business. One prevents the vineyard from offering DJ dance parties and the other limits on-site parking to the 34 spaces approved in the current site plan, the town attorney said.

“They are exceeding that limit at their current level of operation”, he said of parking. “Outdoor events with far more attendees than can be safely accommodated in the buildings on sight require a special event permit so that all impacts, including parking and traffic, can be controlled, but they are ignoring that process.”

The amended plan would mitigate theses issues, the vineyard’s attorney Patricia Moore said during a recent public hearing. The new site plan would also reconfigure the existing parking area and create an overflow lot with 100 additional spaces.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Ms. Moore said at the meeting. “All we can do is move forward. We are confident things will work themselves out. No complaints have been substantiated.”

Town officials say such assurances ring hollow.

“This shows a real lack of sincerity on any comments made before the Planning Board that they wanted to be good neighbors,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “The level of arrogance being shown by this operator is astounding to me and we’ll be discussing how to address it.”

Ms. Moore and the vineyard’s owners were not available for additional comment Monday.

06/03/13 8:00am
06/03/2013 8:00 AM

It is the public’s turn to weigh in on controversial Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue. Southold Town’s planning board is holding a public hearing regarding the vineyard’s amended site plan during its meeting tonight.

The amended site plan presented to planners on March 25 includes a new layout for the existing parking area along with the creation of an overflow lot with 100 additional spaces.

The revised plan also includes construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion adjoining the tasting room. The pavilion would provide extra seating and picnic tables.

The plan comes on the heels of an investigation being conducted the State Liquor Authority. The SLA began looking into Vineyard 48 in April after the business became the source of a long list of complaints, including loud music and patrons allegedly wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

The public hearing is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.