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Bethpage studio seeks permit to allow live audience on set of new Kevin James comedy

Gold Coast Studios in Bethpage has reopened after shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. On July 24, the studios provided a tour of the facility and talked about new safety protocols. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Bethpage film studio where Long Island native Kevin James’ new Netflix comedy is being shot is seeking a special-use permit to allow for filming in front of live studio audiences when pandemic rules allow it again.

"People that want to go to a live show will come, see it as a night out and come early," attorney Judy Simoncic, who represents applicant Gold Coast Studios, told the Oyster Bay Town Board during a hearing Tuesday at Town Hall. "They’ll go to a local restaurant or what have you and then you come and see the show and leave it. It’s a good thing for everybody."

Gold Coast Studios, which built soundstages out of former Grumman facilities, is seeking a permit to allow up to 700 seats at one soundstage called Studio 3 and up to 200 seats at another soundstage called Studio 5. Gold Coast Studios is a business name used by owner Nassau Steel LLC.

Netflix has leased Studio 5 to shoot James’ comedy about NASCAR called "The Crew." Production on the show stopped earlier this year due to the pandemic, but a Netflix spokesman said Tuesday that production has resumed but declined further comment.

While film and television production are permitted uses, having a studio audience requires a special permit because under the town code it’s deemed to be a theater, Simoncic, a former Oyster Bay town attorney, told the board.

"Obviously due to COVID we can’t have live audiences there today, but we're looking to have that ability, hopefully very soon in the future when it is safe," Simoncic said.

Film and television productions were halted in March when the state shut down nonessential businesses, but they have been allowed to resume under new rules intended to stop the spread of COVID-19. Those rules allow live studio audiences, but only ones made up of paid cast and crew of the production.

Councilman Steven Labriola asked what show was planned for Studio 3, noting that drawings in the application shows seats for judges.

"Are you at liberty to tell us which talent show is coming to Bethpage?" Labriola asked.

Nassau Steel construction director Kevin Lumpe said that right now the soundstage is being leased by HBO for production of the drama series "The Gilded Age," which he said they hope will continue to shoot there for years.

"This is just an example of what we would have," Lumpe said of the drawings. "We don’t have any particular shows that we’re talking to. We wish we did but we don’t."

The town board reserved its decision on the application for a future, unspecified date.

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