Soon the only applause at Middle Island's shuttered Island Squire restaurant will be from neighbors as the former dinner-theater venue is torn down.

The Middle Country Road eatery, which hosted shows such as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Zorba the Greek" before it closed about 20 years ago, is to be demolished next month, Brookhaven Town officials said last week.

Middle Island residents called it an eyesore. An engineering report commissioned by Brookhaven officials said the structure's roof had collapsed, and graffiti were spray-painted on the building.

"We're really thrilled that it's coming down, finally," said Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association. "We were joking that we're going to paint a sledgehammer gold and go down there and tear it down."

The Brookhaven Town Board voted unanimously on Thursday to demolish the building because town engineers deemed it unsafe and unfit for occupancy. A report by Cashin Associates, a Hauppauge engineering firm hired by the town, found the building's foundation may have shifted.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents Middle Island, said she was "overjoyed" that the old restaurant will be razed. "It has been such a blight on the community for many, many years," she said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Property records show the site is owned by Wal-Mart Real Estate of Bentonville, Arkansas. The firm did not return calls seeking comment.

The Island Squire hosted dozens of shows in the 1980s and early 1990s, many of them starring then-owner John Wyle. The restaurant was a staple of the murder-mystery theater circuit, featuring shows in which audience members took part in the plots.

"This used to be a famous eatery," Lynch-Bailey said in an interview. "When we moved in, in 1983, all we had to say was we lived near the Island Squire, and everybody knew where we lived.

"People had their weddings there. People went to shows there."

She called the venue's demise "a very sad commentary on the past." In a letter to the town board, she wrote, "As a civic leader, the number one question I'm asked is, 'When is that awful Island Squire going to be bulldozed?' "

The building remained vacant after the restaurant closed, and attempts to find new tenants were unsuccessful, Lynch-Bailey said. Town officials have rezoned it for residential uses.