A Different Light going dark
After almost 30 years as the preeminent gay, lesbian and transgendered bookstore in Los Angeles, A Different Light in West Hollywood will be closing its doors. As far back as 2000, manager Brad Craft, above, warned the L.A. Times that the bookstore, which he called "the intellectual focus of our community," was struggling. This week owner Bill Barker, who has no intentions of shuttering the San Francisco store, says there were two circumstances that made things increasingly difficult for the WeHo location.
The first, he told Instinct Magazine yesterday, was a massive construction project on Santa Monica Boulevard that began in 2001. "[The city] came in and ripped all the sidewalks out, and foot traffic and parking disappeared from West Hollywood for a year or 18 months," he said, "and it never came back."
Then in 2007, Mickey's, a bar next door, had a terrible fire. "They closed it down, barricaded the front, and again I saw a dropoff in sales. The bars attract people," Barker said. "They [Mickey’s] were supposed to open last June, and that didn’t happen, and then it went to October before Christmas and that didn’t happen. And now the economy is very, very serious."
Earlier this month, the nation's oldest gay bookstore, the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York's Greenwich Village, announced it will close in late March. The closures are bad news for independent bookstores in general and gay bookstores in particular.
But one thing that A Different Light has going for it, in addition to its storefront in the Castro in San Francisco, is a robust online marketplace, where it sells books, DVDs and "adult selections." And you know how the Internet loves "adult selections."
The West Hollywood store will close sometime this spring.
— Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times