This past Thursday, St. Mark's Bookshop launched a cash-only, 50-percent-off-everything (except cards and consignment books) sale.
You're correct in thinking that's likely not a good sign for the rent-challenged store's future. For starters, the clerks have been telling customers that they'll only be around for "a few more days."
And Bedford + Bowery spoke with the shop's lawyer, James West, who said that the bookstore was served with a Marshal's Notice about a week ago. They reportedly owe $62,000 in back rent to the landlord, the New York City Housing Authority. And there's more.
“The people they owe money to are, among others, the State – there are some taxes due – but there are some other creditors, one of them was a book distributor. That was the pressure point.”
“The State doesn’t usually play games,” West added. “That was pretty much it.”
According to New York’s Department of State, a warrant was issued on January 21, 2016 for a $34,408.76 tax lien. The only way out of a tax warrant is to pay the bill in full or file for bankruptcy. Then, as Contant explained, as a result of losing a legal dispute with the book wholesaler Baker & Taylor (which boasts the title of “world’s largest distributor of books and entertainment”) a U.S. Marshal Auction has been scheduled for Wednesday, February 10.
Still, the shop, which has been in several locations since 1977, seems to find a way to hold on. Last Wednesday, The Awl had a post titled "The Mystery Money Keeping St. Mark's Bookshop Alive." There are apparently several investors, including longtime East Village resident (since 1959) and building owner Charles FitzGerald and a man named Rafay Khalid, "who covered the bookstore’s $22,000 down payment on its lease with NYCHA," per The Awl.
What Khalid and FitzGerald propose, and what they hope the city will agree to, is a new lease, with a new company — under a new name, Khalid said repeatedly — that will pay a higher rent than it is currently paying. In return, it will forgive the back rent. FitzGerald, any investors, and a management committee will direct how to allocate any funds raised, including whatever is left of the $200,000 Khalid said he’s already raised. “I think of this as a startup,” Khalid said. “St. Mark’s 2.0.”
Meanwhile, there's the 50-percent-off sale. The store is getting picked over, as you'd expect ... last night, I noticed one copy each of Richard Hell's "Massive Pissed Love," Romy Ashby's "Stink" and Kim Gordon's "Girl in a Band," to name a few titles that I have an interest in ... and there were several copies left of the latest Maximum Rocknroll and Mojo "Punk Anniversary Special" with a CD of "15 pre-punk nuggets" (Hawkwind!)...
[Photo from last night]
St. Mark's Bookshop is at 136 E. Third St. between Avenue A and First Avenue. They are open today (Sunday) from noon to 10 p.m.; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays.
Here's more via Publishers Weekly:
Jim West, a lawyer with his own firm who has been providing pro bono legal assistance to St. Mark's, explained that New York City would probably prefer not to see the execution sale happen. The reason, West explained, is because the cost of the auction would likely be higher than the money it will bring in.
If the execution sale does not happen, West said St. Mark's could stay open until March 9, which is the date of the next hearing about the back rent.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Report: St. Mark's Bookshop prepping fundraiser ahead of possible move to Avenue A.
Is this the new home for the St. Mark's Bookshop?
Report: St. Mark's Bookshop signs lease for East 3rd Street space
Renovations at the future St. Mark's Bookshop on East 3rd Street
St. Mark's Bookshop seeking buyers with an ownership interest
Report: Last stand for St. Mark's Bookshop
Report: Latest woe for St. Mark's Bookshop — possible eviction