The fight over dance parties at Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue has reached the state Supreme Court, and the town has won the opening round.
On May 24 Justice Joseph Pastoressa granted the town a temporary restraining order against the Route 48 vineyard, prohibiting it from holding DJ dance parties while the legal battle continues. The parties have spawned continuing complaints about loud noise and rowdy behavior.
The town is seeking a permanent injunction against the vineyard, which has been ticketed for allegedly operating without the required special events permits and for noise code violations. Vineyard 48 also sought a restraining order to prevent the town from enforcing the events law, but the court rejected that request.
In a separate matter addressed by the same injunction, the court also prohibited the vineyard from running its cigar shop, which the town said also operates without required local approvals.
Both sides are due back in court on June 6.
“I’m pleased that the court recognized the town’s right and obligation to enforce its code in the interest of the health, safety and welfare of its residents,” said town attorney Martin Finnegan. “The town has an obligation to make sure businesses are operating in accordance with our zoning laws. Not every business model is acceptable simply because it’s profitable.”
Vineyard 48 attorney Patricia Moore of Southold said the court in essence provided for a brief “cooling off” period. She maintains the vineyard is guilty only of operating as most others across the North Fork do.
“They’re not doing special events,” she said. “They’re doing the regular marketing of a vineyard, which everyone else is doing.”
The vineyard’s operations “are well under control,” Ms. Moore added. “To address the complaints from last year they hired private security, have all parking designated and they own their own decibel reader. They did all this to address the concerns that have come to the town.”
Those concerns include reports of music so loud that people living half a mile away have said they can feel the vibrations and make out the lyrics. Residents have also said partygoers under the influence have wandered into their yards and had sex in the open.
In April the vineyard filed an application with the Zoning Board of Appeals for special permits for every weekend in May but that was rejected. Ms. Moore returned with a new application seeking permission for 58 events on Saturdays and Sundays through November. That was also turned down.
Ms. Moore has said the town code does not limit the number of special events a winery can hold a year. She also said there’s no legal basis for the town’s practice of allowing the ZBA chairperson to rule on requests independently without presenting them to the entire board.
“It’s only a ‘special’ event because that’s what the town calls it,” she said. “There are certain inherent activities that come with a use. The continuation of those fields rely on the continuation of the wineries. God forbid we make it difficult for wineries to continue.”
As to Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela’s recent comment that Vineyard 48 is giving the wine industry “a black eye,” Ms. Moore said that statement was based on “rumor rather than reality. We shouldn’t judge on unreasonable reactions. The decibel readings are well within the limits and everything ends at 6. They’re not going until midnight.”