The State Liquor Authority revoked the liquor license of Cutchogue winery, Vineyard 48, last week based on findings that it had hosted numerous raucous parties on weekends. Neighbors in the Town of Southold complained of loudspeakers blasting dance music and a DJ making obscenity-laden commands to get up and dance. Allegedly all this could be heard up to a half-mile away in nearby residences. The complaints, dating back to early 2011, also included intoxicated partygoers wandering throughout the neighborhood, traffic congestion and an illegal cigar shop. There was even an arrest at the winery for sexual activity amid the vines.
The State Liquor Authority’s revocation of Vineyard 48’s liquor license comes after the Town of Southold commenced civil litigation to cancel the dance parties under the Nuisance Abatement Law. This Law is used by towns and cities under the theory of civil forfeiture, the power to seize property used in the commission of a crime, to close troublesome bars and nightclubs. The Town’s attorneys had previously won preliminary injunctions limiting the parties based on zoning and noise violations. The Town also alleged that Vineyard 48 failed to obtain special events permits for its weekend dance parties. In response, the Winery has made attempts to work with the Town by leasing more land next to the Winery to address parking and traffic issues.
Ron Goerler, president of the Long Island Wine Council said that this is the first revocation of a winery liquor license that he can remember. It may be the sign of a new trend. The explosion of “agri-tourism” and the foodie culture have created a huge influx of consumers that wineries must compete for. Most vintners have responded by expanding their hours and menus and by offering live entertainment. It was inevitable that this evolution in wineries’ methods of operation would lead to some establishments incurring nuisance abatement actions and State Liquor Authority disciplinary violations including the ultimate penalty, revocation. Although towns usually offer a stipulation quickly after filing the complaint, wineries faced with these actions should consult an attorney who understands nuisance abatement cases.