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Bay Street To Bid Adieu to Long Wharf

Executive director says theater spends too much money on various rents.

will be leaving the corner location it got its name from in Sag Harbor.

Tracy Mitchell, the executive director, made the announcement at a Sag Harbor Village Board meeting on Tuesday night, saying the theater won't be renewing its lease, which ends in May 2013.

"It's been our home for 20 years. Now, we're looking toward the next 20," Mitchell said by phone on Wednesday.

Theater administrators don't want it to move far. "We'd love to stay in Sag Harbor. That's the goal," Mitchell said. "It's been a great boon to be on a Main Street, to have the walk-by traffic from the and the yachts."

“Lots of places and businesses are having a difficult time, and Bay Street is one of them," said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “Certainly, Bay Street Theatre has become a great part of the village. I would like to see them stay there."

But Mitchell explained that there are actually a number of reasons for the decision to move. Administrators recently heard from Pat Malloy, the building owner, someone Mitchell describes as a supporter, who said the rent will go up once again, bringing the rent up to $200,000 per year. "If it was just that fact alone, it wouln't be so bad," Mitchell said.

The nonprofit organization that runs the 299-seat theater also incurs $200,000 to $300,000 per year in additional rents for housing and storage.

Since Bay Street is a professional theater and governed by the rules of the Actors' Equity Association, the theater must provide housing for the actors and other crew. There is no housing space within the theater, so it must finding rentals at the height of summer. Plus, the housing has to be within a half-mile, according to the actors union, otherwise the theater has to foot the bill for transportation.

A shop in Riverhead is rented to store props and as a place to build sets, Mitchell said.

"We pay $400 to $500,000 just in rents," Mitchell said. As a non-profit organization, the theater applies for grants and underwriting opportunities. "They look at us like we have two heads when they see how much we're paying in rents," she said. While staff try to explain the expensive rental market in the Hamptons, she added, it's a difficult position to be in.

The annual budget is about $2.4 million, Mitchell said.

Attracting large donations has also proven difficult. "Big donors want to know we're still going to be here" in years to come, Mitchell said. "Since we don't own our home, there's no guarantee."

In the midst of the annual appeal, the goal is $375,000. So far, another $250,000 is still needed.

The ideal situation, she said, is that the theater could find a new home where the auditorium, box office and housing are on one property. "Other successful regional theaters do it that way," she said.

Bay Street has formed a venue and housing committee and is working with developers and real estate experts to explore what's available.

In Sag Harbor, the former property a few blocks away on Division Street is vacant since the . Mitchell said the owner, the Archdiocese of New York, is only interested in renting and shows would require the diocese's "blessing."

The group are looking at properties not utilized, Mitchell said, mentioning the building where La Superica is located and has several vacancies. "How great would it be to come over the bridge to Sag Harbor and, on your right, see a park and a building with a theater?," she said, referring to the former Professional Building on Ferry Road, where condos have been planned, next to the .

While there is still more than a year-and-a-half, and one summer season, left on the lease, "It's not that much time," Mitchell said.

And if the theater's new home hasn't been found or isn't ready in time? Mitchell said they are a creative bunch. "Maybe we're a theater without four walls for a while? Maybe we perform under a tent in ? Maybe on the beach? Who knows."

Bruce October 13, 2011 at 12:08 AM
I agree with Tracy Mitchell. The old Harbor Professional Bldg. site next to the bridge would be the best site for a theatre. Beats more condos any day.
Michele October 13, 2011 at 12:32 PM
I think they should buy a place and use it for storage, and office space. then make the ofice space they have now rooms for the interns, and rent a year round house for thr stars. and use the year round rentel for starage as well. keep the BAY street theater where it is and look for other ways to save and store..... what wil l they put there a golden pear.? please do move the theater. move the storage.... I used to work at the theater and i can tell you it is so special...... its magical. they need to do fundraisers and get better updated shows do yearround events........ it would work if they did some new things the real people would want to see.. year round...... its there year round. use it. . BAY STREET theater should stay!
Kerry Goleski October 13, 2011 at 01:15 PM
This is such a shame! It is in a beautiful location...proof that the bad economy is affecting everyone :(
Beppe October 14, 2011 at 11:44 AM
Malloy should donate the building!!!!

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