Bomb threat cancels drag story time at King’s English Bookshop, the store will be closed for a day

No one was injured and the Salt Lake City bookstore was later given the all-clear by police.

(Lauren Gustus I The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Police responded to a reported bomb threat at The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East on Sunday, September 24, 2023.

Utah drag queen Tara Lipsyncki has been hosting all-ages drag story events at The King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City since June.

Lipsyncki was grabbing her keys and heading out the door to her final event Sunday morning when she said store owner Calvin Crosby called her to tell her the store had received a bomb threat.

Lipsyncki immediately turned to her husband to relay the information, she said, and together they pondered: “Is it sad that we’re no longer worried?”

(Theadora Soter I The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Police responded to a reported bomb threat at The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East on Sunday, September 24, 2023.

Salt Lake City police temporarily closed 1500 East between Emerson Avenue and Kensington Street to investigate the threat. Crosby said police were called before store staff showed up Sunday morning.

Police in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, described the call as a “suspicious circumstance” and said a police K-9 team trained to detect explosive materials responded. Staff and participants were safely evacuated, but by 11:30 a.m. the team had given the building the all-clear, police later said.

“We assume it’s because of our drag story time,” Crosby said of the threat.

The bookstore’s event was ultimately canceled and the store closed for the day “for the safety of our booksellers and loyal readers,” the company said in social media posts. Nobody was injured.

The event, which Crosby said benefits the nonprofit BrainFoodBooks, is typically quiet. Parents and children participate equally, and children always come with adults, Crosby added. Lipsyncki said it started as a summer reading event where she read three stories.

“It’s just a fun celebration of diversity,” Crosby said. The stories vary by genre and age group and are typically from books that have recently arrived at the store.

But Sunday’s event seemed unusual given the threat, Crosby noted. For safety reasons, there is typically a cap of around 30 participants for each event. “Several blocks of tickets” were sold for this event, he said, reaching capacity with just six ticket buyers.

After noticing this, Crosby reached out to the ticket buyers and confirmed that three of them were regulars, but the other three did not respond. “They had large ticket contingents. It’s very strange. I went on social media and tried to google everyone… these large groups of ticket people were pretty much invisible.”

It is unclear whether the block purchases were in any way related to the threat made on Sunday.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a post to X On Sunday, the city announced it would work with the bookstore to reschedule the event.

“I can’t say this emphatically: EVERYONE belongs in Salt Lake City,” Mendenhall wrote in the post. “Today’s actions cause fear.” @KingsEnglish around a drag story time event are not welcome here.”

This is not the first time an event Lipsyncki attended has been threatened. In January, there was an armed protest by Proud Boys at an all-ages drag show at TeaZaanti. The show was canceled, paused for a month and resumed at a new location with armed supporters.

Of today’s events, Lipsyncki said, “I’m even more frustrated because it seems like we’re making so much progress on all of this… we’ve done so well.” It’s so annoying and frustrating because people aren’t alive and can let live.”

Justin Scaccy

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