Monday, April 04, 2011

SF Gay & Socialist Bookstores Closing

The Castro district is about to lose another gay business.

This time it's bookstore A Different Light that is closing. About two months ago, I walked past the once-bustling store and signs were in the windows hawking cheap-ass, bleach-based poppers for sale. Maybe 4 people, practically a crowd for the store, were milling about the place. When this bookstore started selling the amyl, you could just smell that its demise was approaching.

Over the weekend, Scott James at the Bay Citizen delivered the bad news about this shop and the socialist-leaning (that's a compliment) bookstore on Valencia Street shuttering:

The Castro’s A Different Light Bookstore, one of the few remaining LGBT bookstores in the United States, is apparently closing. This comes on the heels of the closure of the Mission's Modern Times, another independent progressive bookstore.

A Different Light has been the gathering place for the Bay Area’s gay literati for decades – the company was first established in 1979. Local authors like Armistead Maupin would often pack the store full of eager readers when launching their latest titles.
But in recent years the store has struggled financially. Some publishers have complained about the bookstore not paying its bills on time.
“Everything must go” signs were spotted in the store today. Dismantled shelving sat in a pile in the back of the store. Neighborhood chatter is that doors will close for good this spring.

A Different Light has been the gathering place for the Bay Area’s gay literati for decades – the company was first established in 1979. Local authors like Armistead Maupin would often pack the store full of eager readers when launching their latest titles.

But in recent years the store has struggled financially. Some publishers have complained about the bookstore not paying its bills on time. ...

Add the soon-to-be-gone gay bookstore to the ever-expanding list of troubled or closed gay institutions over the course of the past year.

New Leaf Mental Health is gone, after decades of helping thousands with depression and addiction. Lyon Martin Clinic almost went under two months ago, is still struggling and needs a bailout from the city.

The SF gay community center last year petitioned the Board of Supervisors for a cash infusion, which it received, to keep the doors open, as they move from a non-profit to a for-profit operation.

Under One Roof, the Castro housewares and knick-knack shop that shares its profits with dozens of local charities, has seriously downsized its payments to the groups.

The SF Pride committee had major fiscal screw ups from the 2010 parade and festival at Civic Center, forcing the inept executive director resign. At the fundraising group Academy of Friends, they've been unable to make full payments to gay and HIV charities that they partner with for their annual Oscars' gala.

The Bay Times, our smaller gay weekly, didn't publish a print edition for three weeks and the editor remained silent about her troubles, showing unwise disrespect to readers and advertisers.

Our beloved Castro theater is closed every Monday and Tuesday night during April, a total of eight nights and the owner told the Examiner that the movie palace is supposedly in good shape financially.

Many financial factors and evolving community dynamics have contributed to the fraying or closing of these entities, including the bad economy and more gay-life needs being met through the web. Where is this change is leading, no one really knows, and yes, I wish to harp on my constant demand for town hall meetings as one way of assessing the changes.

Getting together at open meetings are one solution that could help us see why there is so much trouble among the agencies and businesses, the impact on our social fabric, and what this all means for our future. Sorry to say, I can't recall the last time any gay elected official or business group held a town hall in the Castro to discuss this situation.

Communication could go a long way to help the floundering entities, and the community.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Town meetings or individuals, this is like King Canute commanding the waves to stop. We are no longer a cohesive, supportive movement --witness the apathy which greets the Marriage Equality events; and no one is going to turn out to buy gay, be gay, make gay community anymore. unless it's free, kicky, trendy and convenient, of course.

-K Loomis

Anonymous said...

Too bad it's not the sex stores that are closing and giving the Castro the much deserved poor reputation. Seriously, a little decorum in NOT having a window display of dildos isn't difficult. It's in poor taste and it's embarassing for progressive gay men who don't feel the need to advertise their intimacy. Novel concept for some unfortunately.

sykopoet said...

I am an avid reader, but I stopped going to A Different Light years ago when it shifted from selling literature to mostly selling porn. The lesbian lit section was a joke, and my dad pointed out that the store had Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life on their "bestseller" shelf. That's Rick Warren of Saddleback Church fame. Obviously management was asleep at the wheel. I'm not surprised, but I am infinitely disappointed.

Michael said...

hi sykopoet,

selling rick warren's book? now that is hard proof the store was desperate and had lost its way. another empty store front will soon greet us when we walk castro street. not sure what can go in there and make money, what with so many other stores struggling to survive.

Anonymous said...

Have many of you visited Portland lately? They still have record stores where you can trade in your tapes, records, CDs. They have a bunch of marginal, low rent stores because there isn't much of a tech industry or anything else keeping up the high end of the market.
San Francisco is pretty expensive because the landscape and weather is too nice.

Anonymous said...

I think that our choice to mimic straight culture with our quest for marriage, breeding and quest to fight in the military, combined with the strength of a capitalist society at the same time that folks just aren't interested in maintaining or even creating culture. It is really so sad to see. I loved Harry Hay and what he stood for and I'm a dyke. I believe to be gay/queer is to be different and I think our battles for marriage and the rest have led us down this field of sameness, soon there will be no gay culture. will it be read in history books of the future, or like the past excluded and destroyed? remember folks, that was our past and frankly the way things are going, it will be our destiny again.

Anonymous said...

The other store on Valencia, 'Socialist Worker', is irrelevant, and a waste of time. Good riddence.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad when community institutions fade away.

But if the for-profits have no demand, the doors will close.

If the not-for-profits have no funding, the doors will close.

In either case, San Francisco is a terribly expensive place to do business and live. I'm afraid many of us have moved "up and out" to other locales where things are more affordable and less soiled.

San Francisco's gay community institutions are a victim of the success of gay Americans everywhere.

We don't have to be ghettoized anymore.

Anonymous said...

Assimilation has it's price.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for Another Light but this Bay Citizen Article makes it clear that Modern Times is not closing, only moving out of it's longtime location.

http://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/frequencies/modern-times-bookstore-will-not-be/

Michael said...

hi anonymous,

thanks for bringing that info to my attention. i've got a response up about the modern times temp closure and the BC reporting here:

http://tinyurl.com/3tpjon7