The owners of the Suffolk Theatre are seeking tax breaks from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency to help them finish renovations to the 79-year-old downtown theater, which hasn’t operated as a movie theater since 1987.
Theater owner Bob Castaldi, who owns the building with his wife, Dianne, said the cost of restoring the theater has exceeded what he anticipated. He’s hoping the exemptions that the IDA can grant on mortgage recording tax, sales tax for building supplies and property taxes for improvements on the land will enable him to do more with the money he has.
He’s still hoping to open the art-deco East Main Street theater on New Year’s Eve, but said that forces beyond his control, such as regulatory agencies, could impact that decision.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and never got around to,’ Mr. Castaldi said of seeking IDA benefits. “We’ve got some big ticket items right now and it’s like we started with $100 to do a $100 job, and now we’ve spent the $100 and we’ve only got about 80 percent of the job done.
“To finish it off the way we started, it would be nice to have some relief from the taxes.”
Mr. Castaldi is renovating the theater to have both cabaret style seating, where dinners are served at tables, and standard theater seating, where the seats face the stage. The theater also will screen films and host live performances.
Mr. Castaldi bought the theater from Riverhead Town in 2005 for $707,000. Before that, it had been sitting unused for years after the town purchased it in 1994 but never determined what to do with it.
The IDA members voiced support for the idea and discussed scheduling a special meeting on Oct. 22 for a public hearing on the proposal.
“This is so important in revitalizing downtown,” said IDA member Lou Kalogeras.
Town officials have said they want to prioritize development downtown, where the IDA has already given 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatements on the value of improvements at the Long island Aquarium and Hyatt Hotel, as well as the Summerwind apartment complex.