Suffolk Theater ‘in jeopardy’ without a green room, owner says

The future of the Suffolk Theater on Main Street in Riverhead is “in jeopardy” unless it gets a new green room, according to theater owner Bob Castaldi. 

“We’ve been evicted from our green room and we have no place to put the acts,” Mr. Castaldi said at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session. “It’s hard to run a theater without acts.”

Suffolk Theater had a green room it built inside a property leased from the adjacent Esseks, Heftner, Angel, DiTalia and Pasca law firm, but shortly after Mr. Castaldi fenced off a section of his property that Esseks used for parking, he got an eviction notice from the law firm saying it could no longer use the green room, he said.

“We need that space for special events,” Mr. Castaldi said.

A partner in the law firm told The News-Review the eviction was because their lease with the theater ended.

Mr. Castaldi says that without a green room, he won’t be able to get performers to come to the theater, which holds concerts, plays and events such as weddings or corporate events.

“We are running out of time quickly,” he said, as the deadline to be out of the space at Esseks has already passed.

The green room in the Esseks building, which Mr. Castaldi spent $80,000 to built, includes two bathrooms, a shower and a kitchen, he said.

“The 70 people that work at the theater and all the good work they’ve done, that’s all potentially in jeopardy,” he said.

Now Mr. Castaldi is asking Riverhead Town officials to approve a 576-square-foot “temporary trailer” for use as a green room, along with a 192-square-foot shed and an eight-foot high stockade fence around the property.

The property behind the theater is owned by Mr. Castaldi, who also has an exclusive easement agreement with the town parking district from 2006 that gives him use of the property just north of his.

That easement allows him to erect a handicap accessible ramp, mechanical equipment, dumpsters, trailers for performer’s equipment, landscaping, fencing, lighting and other items, including deliveries.

The fenced in area would include both the land Mr. Castaldi owns and the land covered by the easement. It takes up 16 parking spaces, and possible more, town officials say.

“Our relationship soured when they blockaded the parking lot without any notice to us,” said Tony Pasca, a partner at the Esseks law firm, said in an interview Thursday.

The green room was inside the law firm’s building in space that had been leased to Mr. Castaldi from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2014, when it expired and was continued on a month to month basis.

“It was never meant to be a permanent situation,” Mr. Pasca said. “We decided that now was the time to end it.”

Town officials say they want to help Mr. Castaldi, but they can’t just approve the site plan without additional information.

Supervisor Sean Walter objected to the proposed stockade fence, recommending a four-foot picket fence instead.

“You have to come up with something better,” he told Mr. Castaldi.

“We need privacy,” Mr. Castaldi said. “You don’t want people peeking into your events.”

Mr. Walter also suggested building a landscaped buffer around the fenced area and moving the fences in, so they are screened from the public.

Town officials also said they need to know what the trailer will look like, how long it will be there, and how it will be connected to utilities like water, sewer and electricity.

Mr. Castaldi said he hasn’t gotten a trailer yet, and doesn’t know what it will look like. He also has to determine how big a tent he will need for outdoor events.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio questioned if the easement the town granted to Mr. Castaldi will allow expansion.

Officials said that easement was meant as a buffer between the parking lot and the building.

“We’re not going to hang you out to dry,” Mr. Walter said.

However, officials asked Mr. Castaldi to find a trailer quickly because they can’t vote to approve his plans without seeing what’s being proposed.

He said he’s also in the process of forming a non-profit organization so that the theater would be eligible for grants. Mr. Castaldi said he’s currently spending his own money to keep the theater afloat.

Photo caption: Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi recently fenced out a portion of the parking he owns behind the theater. (Credit: Tim Gannnon)

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