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Officials: State yanks liquor license for Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue

Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue in March 2016. The

Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue in March 2016. The state Liquor Authority suspended the operation's liquor license on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Credit: Randee Daddona

An immediate suspension of alcohol sales and consumption at Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue was ordered by the state Liquor Authority on Thursday after police received complaints from neighbors about public sex, fights and intoxicated patrons on or near the premises, according to an agency news release.

“Vineyard 48 has amassed a disturbing record of repeatedly serving patrons far beyond the point of extreme intoxication, straining police resources and wreaking havoc on their neighbors and the surrounding community,” authority counsel Christopher R. Riano said in the news release.

The vineyard’s attorney, Peter Sullivan of Manhattan, said in a telephone interview that the order would be “reversed quickly.”

Sullivan said the allegations were not true or exaggerated, and some charges made in the news release were not listed in the agency’s actual suspension papers.

In response to the allegation of sexual acts, Sullivan said: “Security prevents people from going onto adjacent properties unless they live there.” He added that police were not called about the alleged incident until days later.

Sullivan said the winery also had the “largest and most comprehensive traffic and security group in the North Fork” to ensure that neighbors were not disturbed.

The suspension is purely “political” and “has nothing to do with facts,” Sullivan said.

According to the release, the liquor authority ordered the emergency suspension of Joseph Paul Winery Inc., doing business as Vineyard 48, on County Route 48 during a special meeting convened after Southold Town police received calls on Sept. 30 from residents about “two patrons engaging in sexual acts in view of their backyard bordering Vineyard 48.” Officers found “two highly intoxicated trespassers” who were escorted off the property, the release said.

The release added that while investigating that complaint, “police observed an extremely intoxicated male patron who caused a disturbance in the rear of the establishment, in addition to a second intoxicated patron who was unable to stand on her own.”

Later that day, Southold police officers went to the winery again for “an altercation involving 400 disorderly, heavily intoxicated patrons who were pushing, shoving and screaming at one another,” the release said. It said a fight broke out involving 15 to 20 patrons that required the response of six Southold officers, who ordered the vineyard closed for the afternoon because of the “overwhelming” size of the crowd.

In addition, police said, the long bathroom lines — some 30 people deep — led to patrons wandering off the premises to urinate and defecate on the properties of neighboring residents, the release said.

“The disturbing incidents of September 30 are only the most recent in a long line of resident complaints and police encounters at Vineyard 48,” the release said. According to the police department, officers responded to 10 incidents at the premises from May 28 to Sept. 30, the release added.

The release said two incidents involved alcohol overdoses in which patrons were rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment, four instances involved intoxicated patrons causing disturbances in the community, and three instances involved buses and limos making dangerous illegal U-turns near the vineyard.

The liquor authority has three pending cases against Vineyard 48, the release said.

On June 5, 2016, Southold police responded to an alcohol overdose at the vineyard, where a patron was found vomiting and had to be taken to a hospital for medical treatment, the release said.

On Oct. 15, 2016, Southold police responded to another alcohol overdose, again requiring immediate treatment at a hospital. And while responding to that call, police saw and broke up two separate physical altercations — one involving an assault by “a highly intoxicated underage woman” on another female, and an unrelated fight erupting shorty afterward between patrons requiring police and management to intervene.

In addition to the altercations, police saw numerous highly intoxicated patrons drinking sangria out of gallon buckets, with an estimated 500 patrons on the licensed grounds, the release said.

The release said Southold police reports detail 11 more incidents between May 14, 2016, and Oct. 30, 2016, including three incidents of alcohol overdoses, four responses to fights between patrons and two for intoxicated patrons harassing neighbors.

“The time has come for this licensee to follow the laws of New York State,” Riano said in the release, “and I commend the SLA for taking emergency action, as Vineyard 48 has demonstrated again and again they have zero respect for the law, and no care for their neighbors, the police or for the safety of their patrons.”

After extensive litigation about previous serious illegal conduct by the licensee starting in 2013, the state agency board imposed a $10,000 fine and a 21-day suspension last year, the release said.

The licensee is entitled to an expedited administrative law hearing before an administrative law judge, the release said, and an order of summary suspension remains in effect until it is modified by the liquor authority or a reviewing court.

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