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Southhold: Citations for food trucks at wineries may start soon

Officials say the growing presence of the trucks at wineries violates the town code.

The Avelino pizza food truck is parked near

The Avelino pizza food truck is parked near Macari Vineyards in Mattituck on Saturday. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold Town board members Tuesday night expressed little tolerance for the growing presence of food trucks at wineries, and one said citations to trucks or winery owners could start soon.

Code enforcement officers have been surveying the area and warning food truck operators and wineries that selling food from the trucks at wineries isn’t legal. To date no violations for food trucks have been written relating to retail sales.

But after Tuesday’s meeting, councilman Bill Ruland said citations could be issued any time.

Enforcement officers “have visited many of the wineries but not all, and they asked for compliance,” Ruland said. “The next step will be giving citations.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said one of the main issues is the “recent growth” in the trucks in the town. “Now they’re everywhere, operating in a lot of locations,” he said. “It’s a food-truck issue; it’s not a winery issue.”

Representatives of wineries first received notice of the town’s plan to crack down on the practice of food trucks stationed at wineries during a meeting with town officials June 1. Winery owners say the pairing of food and wine is essential to the vineyard experience, but town officials say their code forebids selling anything other than wine at tasting rooms in residential and agriculture zones.

Steve Bate, acting director of the Long Island Wine Council, suggested it was a “good time for the town to take a look at some of the permitted uses” at wineries, given the natural pairing of food and wine and the growing popularity of food trucks. He said food trucks have been around for a decade, largely without notice. But one board member said that was news to him.

“I haven’t seen them, but maybe I’m just not getting out enough,” said councilman Bob Ghosio. “I don’t see the will for the town board to create a law to allow it.”

Town attorney William Duffy said truck owners, wineries or both could be subject to citations.

Only a few winery owners were on hand at the Tuesday meeting, which didn’t include food trucks on the agenda but was brought up during a public-comment session. Most sought clarity on just what would invoke a citation.

Chris Baiz, owner of Old Field Vineyards in Southold, pointed to scenarios in which customers ordered food from a deli and brought it to a winery, had the winery order food from outside, or sold food through a ticket that avoided the exchange of cash at a food truck. Retailing by food trucks in residential or agricultural zones was the issue, board members said.

Ghosio added, “If they’re got to eat so much food to offset the alcohol they’re drinking, it’s no longer a tasting room.”

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