For the second time in just over four weeks, the New York State Liquor Authority has denied an application by Owera Vineyards for both its own liquor license and its ability to use third-party catering permits to provide food and alcohol at winery events.
Like the authority’s first denial on Dec. 2, its commissioners specifically cited the numerous neighbor complaints and alleged deteriorating quality of life issues in the neighborhood as the reason for their denial; unlike the December decision, the authority’s Jan. 3 meeting was attended and addressed by Owera owner Nancy Muserlian and her attorney, as well as two of the winery’s East Lake Road neighbors.
While this issue of Owera’s negative impact on its neighbors due to its high-volume, late-hour weddings has been ongoing for the past six months, and both the neighbors and Owera’s owners and attorneys have been making basically the same statements and arguments before various municipal boards, at the Jan. 3 SLA hearing both Nancy Muserlian and her attorney, John Sidd, made statements, admissions and promises about past and future winery conduct that are new to the record. Muserlian, in fact, declared the ongoing controversy with her neighbors to be such a “nightmare” that she is prepared to change the winery’s entire business and marketing plan to eschew wedding events, perhaps entirely.
“I am here to tell you after this season I am happy to change the focus of the business,” Muserlian told the commissioners. “I’m happy to change my business because given the concerns here, really, I honestly do not want to do this. … I am in the process of writing letters to the brides and there will be some major changes. And as I said I really hope they cancel.”
Owera Vineyards opened in June 2013 and began holding numerous events, mostly weddings, in their event tent on Friday and Saturday nights. Under the town planning board’s regulations for the winery’s operations, all outdoor events must end at 10 p.m. although indoor events may go longer. The winery’s event tent has been at the crux of a disagreement between Owera and the town as to whether the tent is an indoor structure or an outdoor structure. The winery and its attorney, Antonio E. Caruso, of the Syracuse law firm Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, have consistently declared the tent to be an indoor structure and therefore events can go beyond 10 p.m. The town has disagreed and even issued a violation to the winery for its excessive noise operating beyond 10 p.m.