The handwriting appears to be on the wall for the Bay Street Theatre. Though it has had a very good run in its original location in Sag Harbor, the Village of Southampton is making an offer to lure it to take over the Parrish Art Museum building on Job’s Lane, and the offer sounds too good to refuse.
The Parrish is to move to its impressive new home this summer, and the old building, which Southampton Village owns, will be in need of a tenant. The village is said to be ready to give the theater a lease for as long as 50 years and generous terms. Southampton might even sweeten the deal with promises of an associated cafe, outdoor theater, and a 400-seat main stage, with ample and accessible nearby parking.
But what would be good for Southampton Village would be a loss for Sag Harbor. As State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the village’s attorney, said at a Jan. 5 forum, the theater helped spark something of a revival for the village when it opened at the foot of Long Wharf some 21 years ago. He called its being in Sag Harbor critical to the economic health of the village and said he would do what he could to help keep it there. Former Sag Harbor Mayor Gregory Ferraris, who is now on the Bay Street board of directors, agreed it was not a coincidence that the “success of Sag Harbor has coincided with the success of the Bay Street Theatre.”
Ultimately, money is what has motivated the theater’s board to grapple with a possible new home. Bay Street pays its Sag Harbor landlord $185,000 a year in rent, with increases every year, and it has sizable additional expenses. If it can reduce the rent, while taking over a larger theater than it has now, and in a location with a larger population base from which to draw patrons, so much the better. Nonetheless, for Sag Harbor, it would be a bitter curtain that falls.