It’s been a slow death for the gay L.A. landmark, but the end is officially near for West Hollywood bookstore Circus of Books, which will close next month, January 2019, according to local sources.
The closing of WeHo’s Circus of Books, an adult bookstore that has sat on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Jolla Avenue for nearly 60 years — behind which sits the legendary gay cruising grounds known as “Vaseline Alley” — has been referred to by many as “the end of an era.”
The closing doesn’t come as a shock to locals, who have expected the West Hollywood bookstore’s closure for more than a year. A “For Lease” sign reportedly went up at Circus of Books last summer, but interest in the space was slow, which delayed its official closure.
Circus of Books and the building in which it sits have been owned by straight couple Karen and Barry Mason since 1982. In their time of owning the West Hollywood bookstore, they have sold everything from pornographic magazines and videos, poppers and various ‘gay sex sundries’ to non-porn magazines, books and ‘smoke shop’ accessories. The store itself was a popular cruising spot for the area’s gay men for many years.
In previous interviews, the Masons have commented on their business facing tough times due to the proliferation of online stores, a proliferation of free porn online and a growth in app use among gay men worldwide.
Though the new tenant of what will be the former Circus of Books space hasn’t yet been confirmed, Karen Mason has said a marijuana dispensary is preparing to take the space following the obtaining of a cannabis license through the city. She says her husband and her will need around a month to clear out of the space.
A heavily discounted sale of all the merchandise left is expected to take place this month.
A secondary brick-and-mortar Circus of Books location in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood, open since the mid-1980s, closed in August 2016. It, too, was replaced with a marijuana dispensary. At the time, Karen Mason told Curbed, “The business model we’ve used for the past 30 years is just not sustainable anymore.”
At one point there was also a Circus of Books location in L.A.’s Sherman Oaks neighborhood. That space closed in the late 1990s.