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State seeks to yank Cutchogue winery's liquor license

Bill Shipman, who lives near Vineyard 48 in

Bill Shipman, who lives near Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue, says its owners "brought this on themselves." The community is upset with it operating as a loud weekend dance club. Credit: Randee Daddona

State officials are seeking to revoke the liquor license of Vineyard 48, a North Fork winery they say had been operating as a weekend dance club complete with loud music, a DJ shouting profanities and hundreds of drunk people, according to charges by the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and a lawsuit filed by Southold Town against the winery.

The town is seeking to continue a preliminary injunction that prevents the winery from advertising "DJ Dance Parties" and to shut down a cigar shop the town says is operating illegally, according to a lawsuit filed last year.

Residents near the Cutchogue vineyard said that since 2010, weekends have been marked by loud music that rattles their houses, and traffic problems caused by limousines and tour buses.

Residents said in interviews that vineyard patrons have wandered into their neighborhood and vomited and urinated, and add they have seen lewd behavior in the vineyard. State Liquor Authority charges state "the Southold Town police department has been responding to voluminous complaints." The town's lawsuit cites a DJ "who routinely uses vulgarity" and "contests for patrons' removal of clothing."

"I can't let my girls play outside anymore," said Beth Shipman, 47, who lives across Route 48 from the vineyard with her husband, Bill, and two daughters, ages 8 and 11.

Vineyard 48's attorney, Peter Sullivan of Manhattan, said most of the complaints are at least 2 years old. "The vineyard has always been law abiding," he said. "But even within abiding by the law, it has been significantly quieter within the past year-and-a-half."

Residents agreed with that contention, which Shipman attributed to the state investigation. Vineyard 48 has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The final day of hearings is scheduled for Monday with a decision -- revocation of the license is the most serious penalty -- to be made by the three-member State Liquor Authority.

A motion to continue the temporary restraining orders that prevent Vineyard 48 from conducting "DJ Dance Parties" and from having more cars on site than allowed under its current site plan is scheduled to be heard Aug. 21, according to Southold Town attorney Martin Finnegan.

Sullivan said other wineries "are in far greater violation of the laws than Vineyard 48."

But Sal Diliberto, secretary of the industry trade group Long Island Wine Council, said, "Vineyard 48 is not reflective of the Long Island wine industry."

Both men said Vineyard 48 is no longer a council member by "mutual" agreement.

The Southold Town Board approved a resolution last week spelling out a tougher permitting process for special events at wineries despite opposition from the industry, a major economic driver on the North Fork.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said because of the ongoing litigation he could not comment on Vineyard 48.

Neighbor Bill Shipman said he's not anti-winery. He and his wife have lived in their house since 1999 and used to go over for a glass of wine under previous owners, he said. Vineyard 48, he said, "brought this on themselves."

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