Lynbrook businesses, residents give theater two thumbs down

Chamber president supports Regal amid backlash

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Just over a year after its highly anticipated grand opening, Lynbrook Regal Cinemas 13 has drawn the ire of some residents and members of the Chamber of Commerce.

At the July 15 village board meeting, local businessman Jeffrey Greenfield, a partner at NGL Insurance Group in Lynbrook and a chamber member, addressed the board and expressed his frustration that theater officials, in his view, have failed to embrace the community.

“I’m very upset with the Lynbrook theater because they haven’t joined the Chamber of Commerce and they haven’t assimilated with the Lynbrook business community,” Greenfield told the Herald after the meeting. “They also have three problems: parking, parking and parking.”

Calls to Jerry Grewe, Regal’s vice president of real estate, and a message left for a manager at Regal Cinemas 13 had not been not returned at press time. Mayor Alan Beach said he had had discussions with Grewe about many of the issues that residents have complained about.

While Greenfield said that many business owners were upset, Chamber of Commerce President Stephen Wangel said he supported the theater, and noted that it had been good for local businesses. “The Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce has always endorsed the reconstruction of the Regal theater, as it was anticipated to be an anchor for our downtown business district,” Wangel said. “Now, being open for a little over a year, it has proven to be just that. Retailers and restaurant owners report increased foot traffic and business on Atlantic Avenue and the adjacent business areas.”

Some residents, however, have complained about the maintenance of the theater. Steve Grogan, a Lynbrook firefighter, said that he and his wife recently had an unpleasant experience there. “The first thing we saw, walking in the front door, was the large amount of trash on the floor all around the food counter,” he recalled. “Not a good first impression. How does management not see this mess?”

Grogan added that families commonly block the steps in theater aisle ways without being asked to move, which is a fire hazard, and that Ubers and other cars frequently block the right lane of Hempstead Avenue, causing traffic tie-ups and raising safety concerns. “The theater needs to clean up their act if they want our own residents to use it,” he said.

Beach said he was told by Grewe that Regal had hired seven additional local employees to help with the theater’s upkeep, and noted that a recent shutdown of the Levittown AMC theater because of mice infestation brought more patrons to the Lynbrook theater, which has had problems maintaining its appearance.

Greenfield added that many business owners had complained about the change to four-hour parking meters in some areas of the village. Village officials have an agreement with Regal that there must be 695 parking spaces with a four-hour limit so theater patrons can go to the movies without worrying about expiring meters. But business owners claim that vehicles take up spaces for four hours but don’t patronize any businesses other than the theater.

“I’ve gotten some complaints,” Beach said. “We changed Atlantic Avenue to two-hour parking. I’m looking into the issue.”

Greenfield said that the sudden disappearance of the valet parking service that was offered when the theater first opened has been a major contributing factor to parking problems. Impressive Parking initially struck a deal with village officials to provide valet parking at the nearby Pistilli building, at 303 Merrick Road, for $5 per vehicle. When the office building was in use during the day, 50 spots were available, and there were 120 vacant spaces at night and on weekends. Beach said he was unsure why the valet parking was no longer an option. Calls to Regal were not returned.

Greenfield also took issue with Regal’s plans to open a full-service bar, because it would be within 500 feet of the Lynbrook Baptist Church. “They should be selling popcorn, not beer, wine and full-service liquor,” Greenfield said. “If you want to see a movie and have cocktails, stay at home and watch Netflix or Amazon.”

The negative sentiments offer a stark contrast to the theater’s lavish grand opening on June 20, 2018, which was by invite only and attended by elected officials and local business owners. The new theater was 20 years in the making, after former Mayor Eugene Scarpato and his successors tried unsuccessfully to revamp its predecessor in the past. “This is like the best thing to happen to Lynbrook,” Beach said last year.

The theater took nearly two years to complete, and faced many construction delays, but officials and business owners alike said they expected it to be a boon to the downtown area.

The 83,022-square-foot theater has 13 auditoriums, 12 of which vary in size from 60 seats to 100. Six are on the first floor and seven are upstairs. Auditorium 13 is a special Regal Premium Experience theater, which seats 160. RPX is comparable to an IMAX theater, with a larger screen and seats that can vibrate and have built-in speakers.

But the sense of community that many business owners hoped would come with the grand opening has not materialized, Greenfield said. “They don’t belong to the chamber, and they don’t give back to the community,” he said. “They refused to support the Mayor’s Golf Outing. It’s embarrassing.”